CE Pro Masters 2018: Celebrating Movers and Shakers in Home Technology

Raise a glass to the 2018 class of CE Pro Masters, long-time leaders in the custom electronic industry’s retail, distribution, technology, marketing and executive sectors.


Wow! Has it really been five years since we assembled the inaugural list of the CE Pro Masters? It is truly proof positive that time really does fly.

With your help offering worthy nominations, we have once again compiled a list that represents the goals of the honor — recognizing career CE folks (many are around 50+ years old; so if you combined all the years’ worth of recipients you would put together quite a formidable “50 Over 50” type list) who quietly or humbly moved up the ladder of success over the past few decades, made an honest living and made it well.

Much has changed since that initial CE Pro Masters Class was honored. Five years ago we could never have dreamt that the billionaire who was firing the likes of Dennis Rodman, Gary Busey, Meatloaf and Dee Snider on “Celebrity Apprentice” would become the most powerful man on the planet, or that Snoop Dogg would become host of 1970s game show “The Joker’s Wild” for its national revival.

Who also could have predicted the rise of the industry’s buying groups to such important roles, or that there were still many more significant breakthroughs yet to be invented in the area of immersive audio, all things voice command and other innovations in custom electronics. So while prominent industry leaders like Jeremy Burkhardt and Sandy Gross (you might say this generation’s Amar Bose and Henry Kloss) continue to be titans of our industry, the “unsung heroes” of the industry keep the custom electronics world humming.

Year after year, you — the readers of CE Pro — continue to amaze us with your thoughtful and terrific nominees. Best. Readers. Ev-ah! Without further ado, presenting the 2017 CE Pro Masters inductees …

1. Randy Blanchard

Business Development  Manager, Residential AV,  ADI Global Distribution

For the past 33 years, Randy Blanchard has brought passion and enthusiasm to the custom electronics industry. Randy, who is the business development manager – residential AV at ADI Global Distribution, developed that fervor first as vice president at rep firm Pecar Electronics in Michigan and later as vice president at the Home Entertainment Source buying group. Today at ADI, Randy zealously extols the virtues of security dealers getting into the custom electronics business, whether he is presenting to a large group of salespeople or just a single customer. His dedication is helping guide ADI’s North American A/V business every day.

2. Jeffrey Boccaccio

President, DPL Laboratories

It’s an honor to include Jeff Boccaccio, one of CE Pro’s key contributors, as a 2017 inductee. Like many in the industry, Jeff began in retail at a family-owned audio store in greater Boston. An accomplished speaker and writer, he now trains and lectures extensively at shows both in the United States and internationally, as well as writes a monthly column for CE Pro. The subject? All things HDMI, all the time. In fact, it’s not uncommon for Jeff to fire off his “HDMI Corner” contribution from thousands of miles away on his latest visit to China. At his DPL Labs facility, he is constantly testing and certifying the latest in cable. It’s high time for Jeff himself to be certified as a Master.

3. Stephen DeFuria, a Tribute

Early this May, at the far too early age of 61, Steve DeFuria left us. He was one of the key individuals who helped hold the high-end A/V industry together in the greater Boston area in the 1990s. His experience ranged from retail at Audio Vision, to sales managment at NAD and VANA. Steve had Mensa-like intellect and a scalpel-applied wit to go with it. Truth be told, he was too smart and too blunt for every CE management job he ever held. As time passes, it’s his great intelligence that is mostly missed … that and his uncanny accuracy when he dished about anyone and everyone in the business..

4. Fred Harding

Sales and Technical Support, Capitol

Fred Harding truly is a jack-of-all-trades in the industry. Not many people can hold a dual role of import in both the sales and technical areas, but that’s exactly what Fred does at Capitol, the nationwide distributor based in Eagan, Minn. He has been a liaison for integrators with questions about products and design at Capitol since 1995, providing educational advice via live seminars, webcasts, in tradeshow booths, on the phone and electronically. He has also been a writer extraordinaire for CE Pro, providing our readers with quality reviews ranging from multiroom audio to networking equipment to cellphone signal boosters.

5. Jon Herron

Director  of Sales (America),  Trinnov Audio

Long before the moniker “audio evangelist” became almost cliché, Jon Herron was one. He got his start managing a high-end audio shop in Hanover, N.H., home to his Ivy League alma mater, Dartmouth College. After a sales stint with an iconic New England rep firm that concentrated on better-best companies and two tours at Tweeter as a training director, Jon moved on to a stellar career managing the sales and marketing for companies at the tippity top of the audio pyramid, including Snell, Madrigal and Wisdom Audio. And, just like 20-plus years ago, he can still captivate a crowd in a training session. 

6. Coleen Sterns Leith

President, Marketing  Matters

Starting a public relations and marketing company is one of those ventures, like opening a restaurant, that looks easy from the outside. As Coleen Sterns Leith can attest, it’s certainly not. And to celebrate 20 successful years as owner of a marketing agency, especially in a tumultuous niche like consumer electronics — with a client roster of impressive brands — is a true phenomenon. A frequent blogger, Coleen is also author of an Amazon-listed book, “Ultra Hi Def Marketing: The 5-Step Guide to Total World Domination in the Tech Industry,” and most recently a college instructor.

7. David Mann

More CE Pro Masters

CE Pro Masters through the years

2016 – with Susan Cashen, Joaquin Rivera, Jim Ristow …

2015 – with Ernie Coulter, Marla Suttenberg, Mitch Witten …

2014 – with Brent McCall, Leslie Shiner, Tom Walker …

2013 – with Fred Bargetzi, Charlie Boornazian, Ric Johnson …

Owner, Ace Marketing Group

David Mann ticks a few CE Pro Masters’ boxes along the way to this induction. He spent a few years in the 1970s as the electronics buyer for Woodward & Lothrop, the dominant department store in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. After his stint at Woodie’s, David moved to the other side of the desk working for a couple of Mid-Atlantic manufacturer’s reps and distributors before hanging out his own shingle nearly 30 years ago. He is considered a pioneer in the stocking rep business model.

8. Keith Marshall

Senior Vice President, Security  Channel, Core Brands

There are a few people in the industry you can always trust to “tell it like it is.” Keith Marshall is one of those guys. Currently the senior vice president, security channel, for Core Brands, Keith has been responsible over the years for helping guide both the SpeakerCraft and Proficient Audio brands, flourishing through ownership changes, multiple restructurings and handling diverse personalities. He has not only championed high-quality audio, but has been steadfast in terms of developing some of the best dealer-protection policies in the industry. Keith’s straightforward manner is refreshing in an industry sometimes filled with subterfuge and back-channel gossip. 

9. Helma Paulson

Sales,  International AV Sales

For nearly 30 years, Helma Paulson has been an accomplished, well-known and well-liked sales and marketing executive in the custom electronics industry. Her background and education in marketing, international advertising and PR created the foundation for her successful sales career, which included a long stint at the Harman Consumer Group selling the Audioaccess, Madrigal Audio Labs, Citation and eventually Lexicon brands. Later, Helma migrated south to Tributaries Cable in Orlando. Today she works side by side with longtime industry leader James Wellnitz at rep firm International AV Sales handling high-end brands such as Torus Power, Screen Innovations, Wolf Cinema, Metra Home Theater Group and more. 

10. Dave Peet

Executive VP Sales, Sound United

It took five years to get a CE Pro Master who got his start at the legendary Schaak Electronics out of Minneapolis. But here he is. With sales and buyer tours at United Audio and Montgomery Ward among others, Dave Peet actually spent more time than most in retail before signing on with Sandy Gross at Definitive Technology in 2001. Through the Directed Electronics purchase and the Sound United reshuffling, Dave moved up the organization chart to a well-deserved EVP slot. 

11. John Pravel

Owner,  JPS Group

Anyone who knows John Pravel would undoubtedly agree that if the CE Pro Masters recognition were like the Oscars, with the winners approaching the podium to give an acceptance speech, it’s possible John could still be talking — long past the ascending orchestra cues, deep into the night. Just John being John. After partnerships good and bad, he drives solo through the often-frozen tundra of upstate New York representing the best this business has to offer with professionalism, knowledge and his unique style.

12. Petro Shimonishi

Global Director of Brand/ Product Management (DTS Home Audio), Xperi Corp.

Petro Shimonishi’s admirers have nominated her for CE Pro Masters every year. At last, she’s almost old enough so this highly regarded Gen Xer will join her aging Baby Boomer friends. Marketing is Petro’s game and she grabs every project with a passion. She knows everything from headphones to bedding. “Petro just gets it,” says one endorser. And not only that, she gets it in five languages. How many people can say that? 

13. Mark Weisenberg

If you landed your first vice president of sales gig with 1980s stalwart Luxman and you’re still in CE senior management today, you are very likely qualified to be a CE Pro Master, as is the case with Mark Weisenberg. Most of Mark’s stops along the way were with trailblazing companies of their time including Sonance, Infinity, Integra, SpeakerCraft and Sunfire, working for some of the giant innovators and entrepreneurs of our business. He should start writing those memoirs now. 

14. Kevin Zarow

Vice  President, Audio/Video  Specialty & Custom  Integration, Sound United

Back in 1996, Kevin Zarow did some Marantz training in the Northeast. Even at that point in his career, you could just sense that someday he would be “running the company.” Surviving more management changes than your local 7-11 store, Kevin persevered and quietly moved up the ladder to the top. With the D+M/Sound United merger now complete, there are even more A-level brands under his direction.  

About the Author

Chuck Schneider
Chuck Schneider:

Chuck Schneider is a freelance writer with a long history in consumer electronics. He started and restarted his award-winning manufacturer’s representative firm - Value Added Marketing - and was also a vice president and general merchandise manager for a multi-regional CE chain, as well as a buyer for Lechmere's (a division of Target). Today, he is a freelance writer.




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