The roots of Gendis Inc. date back to 1931 when a young Albert D. Cohen first went into business with his father Alexander selling chocolate bars on the rural roads of Manitoba and Saskatchewan as A. Cohen and Son. This early venture was renamed Confection Distributors and Agencies in 1934 to better reflect its core business of confectionary sales to grocery stores and restaurants in small town Western Canada during the Great Depression.
Albert decided to move to Calgary later on in 1934 where he joined his two older brothers John C. (Chauncey) and Harry, who had previously moved there to work in the film business. By 1935 the three brothers had started General Distributors and in ensuing years brothers Sam, Morley and Joe joined the company. The six Cohen brothers eventually relocated across Canada with Joe in Vancouver, Harry in Calgary, Albert and Sam in Winnipeg, Chauncey in Toronto and Morley in Montreal. Each of the brothers contributed to the ultimate success of the company and each one along with their spouses became highly involved in their respective communities. As a result the extended Cohen family counts 6 members in the Order of Canada and Albert D. Cohen was named to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 1994.
In its early days, General Distributors was an import company bringing in everything from lighters to razor blades to watches and binoculars.
One of the first big breakthroughs occurred in 1952 when Albert secured the Canadian rights to Papermate pens which lasted until 1962 when the Gillette Company took over. Then in 1955 Albert made contact with what was then a small Japanese company and secured the Canadian rights for Sony products in a relationship that lasted for 40 years up to the sale of Sony of Canada back to Sony Japan in 1995 for $207 million.