Mark Benda: Moulding Master
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Program Reporter
CONCORD — Mark Benda spent the first part of his professional life working with cakes and other confectionary creations, so it’s no wonder that when he decided to switch to the building trades, he chose the one closest to his prior specialty. “I got into culinary arts in high school and went to culinary school in Hyde Park, New York, before coming to California to work as a pastry chef at the Fairmont Hotel,” he recounts. “After my wife and I had our first child, I decided to look into a career with daytime hours and more scheduling flexibility. I ended up enrolling in a carpenter apprenticeship program, where I learned everything from laying concrete to finishing work to commercial moulding.”
Soon after, a chance interaction set Mark on his primary professional path. “I was building a fence when a woman stopped in her little Buick Regal and asked me if I knew how to do crown moulding,” he remembers. “I told her I did and she asked me to follow her to her house, where I gave her an estimate and subsequently did my first residential moulding job. As it turned out, she was an interior decorator named Diane, and after I completed her job, she started referring me to her clients and neighbors. Diane and I became great friends, and she was actually the one who encouraged me to get my license and go into business for myself. It’s amazing how meeting one person can completely change the course of your life.”
Today, as owner of Moulding Masters of California, Mark says he enjoys the creative expression his job allows for, and he draws a parallel between his current specialty and his previous livelihood as a pastry chef. “Like cake decorating, I have a blank surface to work with, and I get to deal with elements like color and texture. I like the fact that my job allows me to apply my creative abilities and make art, not to mention the sense of accomplishment I feel after completing a project.”
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Mark resides today in Walnut Creek with his wife, Rosie, and their sons, Dominick and Gabriel. “Like me, my boys are interested in the art of building,” he says. “Both of them have taken woodworking classes in school for the last four years, and Dominick is planning to study construction management in college next year.”
Outside of work, Mark engages in a variety of pastimes, from gardening and cooking to getting outdoors with his family. “Everyone in our family likes doing outdoor stuff, which is neat,” he says. “One of our favorite spots is a beach house in Aptos, where we go a couple times a year to hang out and relax. I also enjoy going on fly fishing trips with my sons and just having some time to bond with them.”
In his life and career, Mark espouses the importance of doing what you love. “I think it’s important to find what you’re passionate about and do it, even if you aren’t getting paid for it,” he affirms. “For me, I enjoy going to work every day and improving people’s homes. Sometimes it’s hard to see the impact I’m making because I’m on the inside looking out, but when a customer compliments me for turning their drab living room into a homier, more beautiful space with moulding and paint, it’s very satisfying and revitalizing.”
When asked what his future retirement might look like, Mark doesn’t have a clue. “I have no plans to retire,” he says. “I really enjoy my work and plan to keep doing it until I’m an old man. Hopefully, my sons will take over the business at that point and make it even better.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?
A: The past, because of the old world craftsmanship. Back then, it was less about production and more about artistic expression.
Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Minamoto Restaurant in Concord.
Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: Culinary arts. I worked in a school co-op program, so I went to school until 11am and then worked in a restaurant until 7 or 8pm.
Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect fishing equipment, old woodworking tools and coins.
Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
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A: My Red Ryder BB gun.