BY JULIE A. PALM
This family-run sleep shop takes a hands-on approach toward the making, branding and selling of mattresses, accessories and furniture.
Jeff Garfield, founder and president of Seattle-based Bedrooms & More, doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what his competitors are doing or trying to figure out how his store can follow the latest trends (he might say “whims”) of the mattress industry.
To wit: Every mattress sold by the retailer is two sided, and you won’t find gel or a layer of memory foam in any of them.
“We’ve always taken a different path,” Garfield says. It’s a path delineated by high-quality bedding and furniture (even to the point of sourcing components directly and overseeing manufacturing) and a solid reputation for a no-pressure, customer-focused sales process.
Following that different path has led to success. Garfield and his wife, Wanda, started their bedding venture, initially a waterbed store, in 1972, building it into a specialty bedding and furniture retailer. It’s supported by a several related sourcing and wholesale divisions, operating under the umbrella of J&W Marketing Inc. (See story on page 12.) The couple’s three sons are involved in the business and, later this year, Bedrooms & More will open a new, larger store next door.
The Bedrooms & More way
The Garfields jumped into the bedding business after some friends extolled the virtues of their new waterbed. Intrigued, the Garfields visited a waterbed store that had recently opened in their area and, as Garfield tells it, “two weeks later we were in business.” Impulsive? Perhaps. But the Garfields like to stay open to new opportunities.
“Even in the waterbed days, we took a different route,” Garfield says. “Back then, people were making—and selling—cheaper and cheaper waterbeds. We never wanted to do that. We stuck with good, high-quality products.”
Today, the retailer specializes in what the company calls “all-botanical latex” and innerspring mattresses. It also carries a full complement of sleep accessories (pillows, toppers, protectors, pads, comforters, duvets and sheets), as well as solid-wood bedroom furniture, seating and decorative accessories.
Bedrooms & More isn’t factory direct but it does control and oversee the manufacture of its products in a way that few retailers do. Many of the company’s mattresses and sleep accessories fall under its 45th Street Bedding brand, named after the street on which the store sits. The company created the brand, which it also sells to other retailers, out of frustration with what Garfield saw as a trend toward lower-quality components in bedding that he believes worsened with the Great Recession.
At that time, Garfield was seeking high-quality latex, a component he first came to favor after waterbeds began to wane in popularity in the mid-1980s. The company found a producer making Dunlop-process latex in Vietnam and now brings in containerloads of latex cores. “We do our due diligence,” Garfield says. “When we source from overseas, myself or one of my sons will be in that factory regularly” to ensure safe working conditions, sound labor practices and quality products.
Bedrooms & More doesn’t have its own factories, working instead with trusted manufacturers to make 45th Street Bedding products, plus other private-label Bedrooms & More lines, to the retailer’s specifications.
“When we converted from waterbeds to being a full-line bedding store, we thought we had to carry the big ‘S’ brands, but we realized over the years that we (the store and our company) are the brand. It makes sense to brand our own lines,” Garfield says.
45th Street Bedding offers mattresses, toppers and pillows featuring its trademarked Botanicore latex, as well as pads, protectors, comforters and blankets.
The retailer’s other sleep accessories vendors include Bed Voyage, DreamFit, Gotcha Covered, Leggett & Platt Inc. and White Loft. The store also carries a full line of adjustable bases from L&P, futon bases from Night & Day and decorative bed frames from Amisco, Copeland, Greenington and Wesley Allen.
Bedrooms & More doesn’t position itself as a “green” retailer, but it does specialize in products made with natural and sustainable materials. For instance, the retailer sells natural and organic mattresses, including models made with GOTS-certified components, and its sleep accessories emphasize breathable, natural materials, such as wool, cotton and linen.
About half of the retailer’s mattresses are latex—either solid latex or innerspring cores with latex layers on both sides. None include memory foam, which Garfield doesn’t think performs or lasts as well as latex. The other half are innerspring (Bonnell or pocketed) with comfort layers made of cotton, wool or poly foams that include soy oils or other eco-friendly ingredients. (The website notes when mattresses are “vegan friendly.”)
“I’m not a ‘greenie,’ but I do believe natural products hold up better and, as a consumer, you know what you’re getting when you buy something made with botanical latex, cotton or wool,” Garfield says. “Those components have been around for a long time.”
Bedrooms & More’s mattress prices start at about $260 in queen size (mattress only) and top out at about $3,000. One of its best-selling mattresses is a latex model with Joma wool in the quilt layer and a GOTS-certified organic cotton cover. It retails for $2,600 in queen size (mattress only). Retail prices for pillows range from $39 (for standard-size microfiber, washable wool or shredded latex models) to $249 (for a king-size silk pillow filled with 100% virgin silk fiber batting). Prices for all products are the same online as in-store.
A new store but a long-term presence
During the Great Recession, the retailer bought real estate just east of its original location “with the idea that lots like that don’t become available very often in our area and it looked like the business would go on with the kids taking it over,” Garfield says.
And soon, a five-story, 20,000-square-feet store will open on that lot. It will provide nearly three times the space of the original 7,500-square-foot location, plus plenty of natural light, thanks to an airy design with lots of windows. Bedrooms & More plans to keep the original store open, perhaps using it to showcase complementary product lines. One logistical issue still to be worked out is how to make it easy for customers to traverse the short distance between the two locations: Garfield likes the idea of a golf cart. Both locations will provide shoppers off-street parking, as well as charging stations for electric vehicles. The larger space, which also will house corporate offices for J&W Marketing, will enable the retailer to showcase all of the approximately 60 bed sets it carries, up from the 50 it currently displays.
What won’t change dramatically is how the beds are displayed—in inviting, room-style settings “to make it look homey and help customers feel comfortable,” Garfield says. “I don’t like beds all lined up in a row.”
The Bedrooms & More sales presentation is “zero pressure,” with a goal of building long-term customer relationships. Shoppers are asked about sleep habits, their current mattress and why they are in the market for a new bed and then given plenty of time and space to explore options and make a decision.
“We want shopping to be fun. You don’t want people coming in feeling like mattress shopping is a drudge,” Garfield says. “People work hard for their money and they should have a good time spending it.”
Shoppers are encouraged to rest-test beds using a pillow they select from more than a dozen options. After shoppers decide on a mattress, the retailer offers delivery and setup throughout the state of Washington for a fee based on the entire ticket, with an in-house team handling delivery. Bedrooms & More strives to keep used mattresses out of landfills by donating them to charities or turning them over to recyclers, including Tacoma, Washington-based Spring Back Recycling.
Second generation stepping up
Bedrooms & More is a true family business with the second generation—Jeff and Wanda Garfield’s three sons—in executive positions with responsibilities across the enterprise’s many divisions. Thane Garfield, the eldest son, has found his niche in sourcing. He handles imports and works with production facilities overseas, as well as the distribution center. He also supervises the web team. Blake Garfield, the middle son, manages the Bedrooms & More store and directs product development, while Blake’s wife, Krystal, handles the company’s finances. The youngest son, Drew Garfield, manages the Bedrooms & More Outlet (located in the company’s distribution center in another part of the city) and the company’s wholesale operations. A cousin is in charge of human resources.
The company’s divisions employ more than 30 people, with about a dozen working at Bedrooms & More. Typical tenures are long, especially for retail. One manager has been with the retailer since 1977, and several people who worked part-time while going to college have moved into full-time positions with the company after graduation.
“When we started out, we used to say ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30.’ That was the mantra of the day,” Garfield says. “Today, we have many people over 60.” Even “short-term” employees tend to stay four or five years, he says.
Garfield doesn’t like to hire retail sales associates and retail managers who have a lot of previous sales experience because they often are “stuck in their ways” and retraining them can be difficult.
“I like to find people who interact well with others and then train them in our philosophy,” he says. Training on both product and sales techniques is one-on-one and usually conducted by one of the family members.
Educated customers are ideal
In many ways, Bedrooms & More prefers to maintain a low profile in Seattle’s media landscape, with Garfield believing that good word-of-mouth and customer recommendations are the best types of marketing.
Still, the retailer does some brand-bolstering advertising, most often on public radio and in local magazines. About 20 years ago, Bedrooms & More stopped promoting sales—and with that decision its newspaper advertising, too—trusting that consistent pricing and quality products are more important to its customer base.
“We don’t get caught up in sales. It’s a bad way to sell a mattress,” Garfield says. “It makes the customer wonder, ‘Why does the sale end today?’ Sales pressure people to rush and make bad decisions.”
The ideal Bedrooms & More customer is “the educated consumer, the person who takes time to do research and understand a product,” Garfield says and, because of that, the retailer puts the bulk of its marketing and advertising dollars into its website, BedroomsAndMore.com. The site recently got a makeover. Although Garfield expects online sales to grow—and the redesigned website is built with that capability in mind—the site primarily is an educational and marketing tool. “Our website is important so we spend money on our own web team,” including a web copywriter and developers, Garfield says.
Bedrooms & More’s main competitors range from online sellers to big boxes and discounters to a host of “green” sleep shops, not surprising giving its location in Seattle.
“But honestly,” Garfield says, “I don’t go into other people’s stores or pay too much attention to what they’re doing. I concentrate on what we do.”
Store is one part of complex enterprise
Firmly believing that often the best way to do something is to do it yourself (or, in their case, with the help of family members), Jeff and Wanda Garfield have expanded their business far beyond the waterbed store they opened in the early 1970s.
Here’s a look at their many bedding- and furniture-related ventures, all part of Seattle-based J&W Marketing Inc. (“J” for “Jeff”; “W” for “Wanda”).
- Bedrooms & More: This was J&W Marketing’s first venture. The retail store and e-commerce site sell “all-botanical” latex mattresses; handcrafted, solid-wood furniture; and sleep accessories. The store opened in 1972 and is a fixture in the city’s Wallingford neighborhood.
- 45th Street Bedding: A signature line of mattresses and sleep products—all designed by, sourced by and manufactured under the direction of J&W Marketing. 45th Street Bedding is sold in the company’s Bedrooms & More store but also is available to other retailers through this wholesale division. The division takes its name from the Bedrooms & More location, which is on Seattle’s bustling 45th Street.
- 45th Street Hospitality: A companion to 45th Street Bedding, this division sells mattress and sleep accessories to hotels, motels, inns and other businesses in the hospitality sector.
- Botanicore: This is a sourcing and importing division built around Botanicore, the company’s trademarked latex mattress and pillow core.
- Quality Bedroom: This division designs, sources and oversees the manufacture of handcrafted, solid-wood furniture, most made from sustainably grown Malaysian rubberwood. Quality Bedroom furniture is sold in the Bedrooms & More store and also is available to other retailers.
Julie A. Palm is chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has 25 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines and as a publications director. She is a past editor in chief of both Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.