n 1962, Raymond Benner, an up-and-coming symphony orchestra musician crossed paths with an elderly pharmacist who wanted to sell his earplug business. The cost was $2,000, and the business was said to earn $1,400 per year. Benner's wife, Cecilia, liked the challenge so a deal was struck to purchase the company, McKeon Products, Inc. Their only product, Mack's® Earplugs (named after the previous owner) was made of a moldable clay mixture. Benner was happy with the earplugs, but believed they could be improved. He wanted to make the earplugs more comfortable to increase wearability. Also, being the avid swimmer he was, he thought a stickier, more malleable substance would better seal out water, thus preventing the annoyance of water-clogged ears. He knew a waterproof earplug would also help prevent the painful outer ear infections known as "swimmer's ear".
Through much trial and error, as well as different production techniques, he discovered a very unique substance that became the world's first moldable silicone earplugs. Benner was enthusiastic about the potential to help improve the lives of many people with his new invention. Struck by the unique appearance of the new earplugs (which looked and felt much like little white pillows) Benner changed the name to Mack's® Pillow Soft® Earplugs. The growth of both of his endeavors took Raymond and Cecilia from city to city. As Benner's then small family business grew, it moved from his home's basement through eight ever-expanding facilities.
Raymond Benner, a renowned and accomplished classical symphony orchestra musician, retired after spending over 30 years between the Cleveland and Detroit Symphony Orchestras. The business that started as a side interest for the Benners, has evolved into the leader of the retail ear-care industry with it's original and #1-selling Mack's® Pillow Soft® moldable silicone Earplugs (U.S. retail market).
McKeon Products now manufactures a full range of moldable and pre-molded silicone and foam earplugs for a variety of uses. The Mack's® line of products also includes a sleep mask, ear drying aids, and earwax removal drops. The company is still family owned and operated. Raymond Benner's sons Devin Benner, now CEO, and Pete Benner, continue in their father's footsteps at McKeon by keeping a hands-on approach to product research and development. Devin swims competitively with the United States Masters Swimming organization at the championship level and Pete is an avid triathlete and 2006 Ford Ironman Triathlon finisher.
McKeon, an I.S.O. quality certified company since 1997, operates solely out of its state-of-the-art facility in Michigan. McKeon continues to grow by providing the highest quality, innovative products in the marketplace that are now sold worldwide.
Mack's Fun Facts
- Ray Benner invented the silicone earplug back in 1962.
- Co-inventor, Cecilia Benner, appeared twice on the game show "What's My Line?" in the 1960's. "Making Earplugs" was her unusual line of work.
- Joan Lunden gave a box of Mack's® Earplugs to her successor as part of a "Good Morning America Survival Kit" on her last show.
- Mack's® Earplugs were the first earplugs used in a World Series Baseball Game.
- Lois Nochman|Swimmers Hearing Protection Masters swimmer, Lois Nochman, broke 18 world records while using Mack's® Earplugs to help prevent swimmer's ear.
- Mack's® are the official earplugs of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
"At about $4 for a pack of ten pairs, Mack’s SafeSound foam earplugs might be the best value on the planet. Roll up a pair, shove them in your ears, and the crying baby whose parents won’t take my suggestion of giving him Vodka quickly becomes a non-issue.
- An excerpt from "The Tools of My Travel Trade"
-Peter Shankman – CEO, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker and Adventurist – New York, NY
"The most effective plugs are fabricated from a malleable, adherent silicone. My brand of choice is Mack's, recommended by an American Airline attendant who struck up a conversation after falling over my chair at the sight of Brad Pitt boarding our New York-L.A. flight."
- " 9 Hours Are Good, 10 Are Better, The on the road rules of a sleep miser."
- Amy Fine Collins, Travel and Leisure Magazine
"Thank you so much for the earplugs. The team used them for travel to the PAC 10's and will re-use them for the NCAA's."
- Skip Kenny, Stanford University and 1996 Olympic Swimming Head Coach.
"With about 50 laps left and Dale Jarret and Mark Martin jostling at the front of the pack, I insert my Mack's Pillow Soft Earplugs and descend to the bottom of the hippodrome, squeezing into a space about 30 rows from the track."
- "Fast Times In Stock Car Country"
- Peter De Jong, National Geographic Magazine