AUBURN — The Auburn Industrial Development Corp. held a tenant appreciation day recently at its industrial park, 44 Sword St., to honor the late Ben Masterman, founder of Masterman’s Safety and Industrial Supplies, the longest-tenured tenant in the industrial park.

Ben Masterman died June 30, 2013. The Worcester native was survived by his wife, Linda, daughter, Melissa, son, Tod, and six grandchildren.

Mr. Masterman founded the company in 1961 under the name Safety First Service Center. He started the business out of the back of his station wagon, with $500 he scraped together between himself and his cousin. Later in the year, he would move his supplies into a Leicester mill building. He didn’t hire his first employee until 1968.

The company would continue to grow and the supply house would change its name to Masterman’s and move into the Auburn Industrial Park in 1981. Originally utilizing a 30,000-square-foot space, Masterman’s would go on to encompass more than 100,000 square feet of space in the park and employ more than 100 people.

The family-owned company sells industrial and safety products such as gloves, first-aid kits, eye protection and warehouse equipment. Masterman’s has developed an eye toward employee and customer appreciation and development — every shipment has been accompanied by lollipops since its inception.

“He wanted life to be good for people,” said Dick Taylor, general manager of Masterman’s. “That was his ultimate goal — quality of life.”

“He was absolutely the kindest man you could ever meet,” added Pam Baribeault, the company’s finance manager.

The Auburn Industrial Development Corp., owner of the park, is also family-owned and oversees 500,000 square feet of warehouse and office space with 35 tenants, including for UMass Memorial Health Care, John Deere, Massachusetts Teachers Association and Atlas Distribution.

The corporation owns an additional 15 acres of development land on Millbury Street and Route 20 in Auburn. Martin Reisner is one of AIDC’s two vice presidents and represents the third generation of his family to run the AIDC. He has had close dealings with Mr. Masterman and the company for years.

“Our business dealings with Ben were always a professional and honest affair,” he said. “In many ways, he was a mentor to me, because I saw how he treated his employees.”

The tenant appreciation event kicked off at 11:30 a.m. under a large tent on the industrial park grounds. The approximately 100 people in attendance were Masterman’s employees and family. It started off with a speech by Jeff Reisner, also a vice president of the AIDC, followed by a speech, and moment of silence for the late Mr. Masterman.

Timothy P. Murray, president of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke on recruitment and growth in the area and congratulated the Reisners on their success and the long-standing success of Masterman’s.

“The way in which he grew his business and his employees is the essence of what this is all about,” Mr. Murray said.

The AIDC presented the Masterman family with a plaque honoring Ben Masterman, featuring a photo of the man, which was met with a standing ovation by the crowd. A luncheon was held following the presentation.

The atmosphere was one of respect and appreciation for the late Mr. Masterman and for what he had done to develop the company he created more than 50 years ago.

“We are carrying on with the same ideals that Ben had,” said Mr. Taylor. “We’re all lucky to be able to live in an environment like this and still get things done. We are all on the same team.”

“He called us his family and he really meant it,” added Ms. Baribeault. “He would go on vacation and call every single employee — not to check on their work, but just to see how they were doing.”

Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette