Entrepreneur brings passion to diverse pursuits

Eugene Covello
Eugene Covello

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Eugene Covello recalls some advice he received from a mentor at the beginning of his career: Do your best work, and money will take care of itself.

Covello said he’s strived to do just in operating dental practices first in Carbondale and then Grand Junction, solving sometimes challenging problems for his patients, keeping pace with changing technology and maintaining his passion for a profession that’s both science and art.

Covello has taken a similar approach to his other business venture, and that’s turning a fishing lure manufacturer from what started out as something of a hobby into what he expects will grow into a million dollar enterprise.

At age 66, Covello could retire from either or both of his pursuits. But he figures he’d quickly become bored. Besides, he said, he’s having too much fun. “I work all the time, but I enjoy it.”

Covello operates Specialty Dental in Grand Junction, a practice that offers routine adult dental care, but also services involving crowns, dentures and implants. “That’s the specialty part,” he said.

Covello said he’s worked hard over the course of his career to develop the expertise and skills needed to handle difficult cases in restoring function — and smiles — in his patients. “I feel very good about solving problems for patients.”

Covello has operated Specialty Dental for three years after operating a practice in Carbondale for more than 30 years. He sold that practice to a husband-and-wife team of dentists. “I knew I couldn’t quit. I loved doing it too much.”

While the practice in Carbondale included three dentists, four hygienists and a total of 15 employees, the practice in Grand Junction remains intentionally smaller with a staff of three, Covello said. “It gives me more time to spend with patients.”

Growing up in Denver as the son of a policeman, Covello initially considered a far different career in professional baseball, a sport he played at the University of Colorado.

Covello developed an interest instead in dentistry, inspired in part with the relationship he developed with the dentist he went to as a child. Covello said that dentist became a mentor who helped him get into Northwestern University and what was at the time one of the top dental schools in the country, and then launch his practice.

Covello said he decided to operate that practice in Carbondale because he wanted a more rural lifestyle and had spent time in that area fishing with his father. Covello moved with his family to Grand Junction nearly 20 years ago, but maintained the practice in Carbondale, commuting from home to work each week.

Dentistry has changed dramatically over the course of his career both in terms of the materials and techniques involved, but also the use of imagery and computers to plan and guide procedures, Covello said. The end result for patients has been a far higher rate of success.

While keeping pace with changing techniques and technology has been difficult, Covello said he’s enjoyed that aspect of his work. “It’s fun staying challenged with the dentistry stuff.”

Covello lure
Covello lure

About 16 years ago, Covello said he became involved in another business venture of a far different sort in what was at that time a fledgling fishing lure manufacturer. Pepper Custom Baits started out as a kind of hobby, but has turned into a growing family enterprise that involves his son, Justin, and wife, Sheila.

Pepper Custom Baits makes a variety of lures for bass fishing that are distributed nationwide and sold in such outlets as Sportsman’s Warehouse, Bass Pro Shops and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

With his son running the operation and his wife handling packaging, annual sales top $400,000, and Covello said he hopes to exceed $1 million.

While Covello said he’s drawn on some of his skills as a dentist in designing and assembling lures, it’s more about the passion he brings to the operation and providing good products and service to customers.

By doing his best work, he figures the money will take care of itself.

Specialty Dental operates offices at 918 N. Seventh St., Suite 1, in Grand Junction. For more information, call 424-5400. For more information about Pepper Custom Baits, log on to the Web site located at www.peppercustombaits.com.