HACKENSACK, NJ -- Eugene Preschel, who founded CMG Vending Co., which operates amusements and jukeboxes throughout the New York City region, died on Oct. 5. He was 83.
Born in Union City, NJ, Preschel was a veteran of the Korean War. After returning to the States in 1952, Gene and his brother Warren started a cigarette-vending route that served locations in New York's five boroughs.
Like many cigarette businesses between the end of World War II and the 1980s, G&W Vending Co. enjoyed steady sales, but Preschel saw greater opportunity in amusements and music, and G&W was sold. In 1980, after a brief stretch at Paramount Cos., owned by vending legend Alfred Miniaci, Preschel established CMG Vending Co. Warren partnered with his brother for a second time, and Gene's sons Howard and Larry joined the team. The CMG name comprises cigarettes, music and games, and serves New York City from its Union City base.
"He was extremely proud of CMG's growth and reputation," Howard said. "He always remained positive about the industry's potential and was eager to learn about new games and technologies that could help our business. Even though we celebrated his retirement a long time ago, he remained involved in the business until the end."
Gene's passion for the coin machine industry manifested itself beyond his family's business interests. He was known for helping others start their own jukebox and amusement routes, mentoring aspiring operators and sometimes sharing CMG's resources to give them a boost. "That was my father's way," Howard said, "and some of the beneficiaries of his good will eventually became our competitors, and some of them yet competed in a manner that was not professional."
When CMG entered the amusement business, videogames were relatively new, and they were tipping over cashboxes around the country. But the coin-op video boom was about to crash, taking down many operators with it. In the music sector, CDs were poised to replace 45-rpm vinyl boxes, obliging operators to make major capital investments in jukebox technology that barely lasted for 20 years.
Around the same time, in the late 1970s, H. Betti Industries, parent of distribution giant Betson Enterprises, was just getting its financing division off the ground. Not surprisingly, Betson's up-and-coming financing division made its first equipment loans to CMG Vending amid a risky market.
"Gene Preschel was probably the first customer to receive our in-house financing services," recalled Kevin Fritz, who began working as a credit manager for Betson in 1977. The New York City operator turned out to be a good bet for Betson, quickly becoming one of the distributor's biggest music customers.
"Gene was very open minded and ready to try new games and equipment," added Fritz, who is now vice-president of Betson's financial services divisions. "I've known Gene for 30 years and he had always been a fine gentleman."
In addition to sons Howard and Larry, and Larry's wife Claire, Eugene Preschel is survived by daughters Janice Preschel and Brenda Sutcliffe, and Brenda's husband Thurmon, and grandchildren Ira, Jenna and Eric Sutcliffe, and Ian, Zachary, Harrison and Noah Preschel. He is preceded in death by his wife, Ida nee Konikoff.