Cutting teeth for 100 years

Donald Rupe has been a part of the family business for a long time.

Rupe, 88, remembers running errands for his father’s business, Deininger & Rupe Dental Laboratory, when he was in junior high.

The dental lab, founded by Rupe’s father, Stephen, and Edith Deininger, is celebrating 100 years in business this year.

In 1913, Deininger and Rupe bought out Charles Baker, one of Altoona’s only dental laboratories for $500. At the time, the business was on the fourth floor of the Central Trust building across from the Altoona Post Office.

The lab moved twice, ending up at its current location, 306 Union Ave., Suite B, Altoona, in 2008.

After Deininger died in 1946, Don Rupe and his brother, Jack, took over her share of the business.

In 1983, at age 90, Stephen Rupe was recognized for his achievement as the oldest active certified dental technician in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Association of Dental Laboratories. Stephen, Don and Jack remained partners in the business until Stephen Rupe died in 1987. Jack retired in 1989 and died in 2011.

Although Don Rupe “retired” in 1989 and sold the business to Don Glass, he continued to work for Glass, who sold the business to the present owner, Chris Rudella, on Jan. 30, 1998. He remains active in the business today.

“My father worked until he was 90, and I am trying to catch up with him. I made him retire,” Rupe said.

Deininger & Rupe offers a full line of removable dental appliances, which includes dentures, partials, retainers and appliances for cleft palates and expanders.

“We also offer denture relining and repairs, night guards and bleaching trays,” Rupe said.

Rupe said his father was innovative with new materials.

“Years ago, vulcanite dentures were made out of rubber with mostly porcelain teeth. In 1937, acrylics came onto the market,” Rupe said.

“I used to pack vulcanite dentures, grind them down and polish them, Rupe said. “It was dirty work. You would come home with brown rubber dust all over you.”

Today, Deininger & Rupe turns out about 1,000 appliances a year with dentures and partials making up the bulk of the business.

Full dentures, which cost about $5 in 1924, cost about $500 today, Rudella said.

The bulk of the business is local, but Deininger & Rupe also gets customers from Maryland and New York.

“We do good work. Most of our business comes from word of mouth. If you do good work, they [customers] tell people. We treat people fairly,” Rudella said.

“We have a good reputation. A lot of equipment has evolved over the years, and we keep up with the latest equipment,” Rupe said.

Local dentists are pleased with their work.

“On a couple of occasions we used other dental labs, and the quality of work was not there in terms of aesthetics and detail. Their work is excellent. They have done a lot of dentures for us, and we have never had a problem with their work,” said Dr. Adolph Klingner of Hollidaysburg.

Dr. Brian Maykovich of Carrolltown said the lab is easy to deal with and does quality work.

“They are convenient for our patients and offer lots of services. I can send people there, and they can do same-day repairs,” he said. “They have been good with that. The quality of their work is excellent.”

Rupe is optimistic about the future of the business.

“With root canals, people keep their teeth longer, but there will still be demands for dentures,” Rupe said. “I want to stay here as long as I can. Maybe when I get to 90, someone will tell me to quit.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.