Six Lessons From the Road


Merchants found success with passion, teamwork, no-pressure selling.

Lessons from the road

We started the year in Hartford, Connecticut, which just happens to be where I started my life some years ago, and we finished the year with a virtual visit to a snazzy new sleep shop in Edina, Minnesota.

In between we made three stops in North Carolina and one in Annapolis, Maryland.

That was our travel schedule this year for the Retail Road Trips that you’ve been reading in Sleep Savvy. As we wrap up the year, let’s look at some of the key lessons we learned on our travels:

Make it personal.

That was one of the keys to success for Tom Wholley at Connecticut Mattress, our Retail Road Trip in the January/February issue. He and his wife, Kathy, built the business around honesty, integrity and a personal mission to help shoppers find the bed of their dreams in South Windsor, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford.

“There is no better feeling in the world than helping someone find the right mattress, the mattress that will provide years of healthful, energizing sleep,” Tom Wholley told me. And that passion for better sleep for his customers drove his business.

Update: After a nice 11-year run, Wholley sold his company this year. Michael Disibio, one of the new owners, met Wholley while buying a mattress. Disibio says mattress retailing is a perfect fit for the comfort- based approach he brings to his New Balance stores in the area.

Partner for success.

Joel Humphrey and Lisa Stansbury Humphrey are partners in their marriage and in their company, Fred’s Beds, with stores in Wilmington and Southport, North Carolina. We profiled them in our March/April issue.

“The best part of working with your spouse is that they won’t let you down,” Joel says. “When we have to get something done, we know we can do it.”

Lisa brings a woman’s perspective to her work. “Women have a better eye for what other women want,” she says. That’s a particularly valuable skill in mattress retailing, where many customers are women.

Build a dream team.

That’s what Greg and Katy Law have done at Sweet Dreams Mattress & Furniture, which operates four stores in the Lake Norman area in North Carolina. In our May/June issue, we shared the story of how the Laws, college sweethearts, focus their business on helping people achieve their dreams by starting with a good night’s sleep.

“My role is to help as many people as possible achieve their dreams,” Katy says, whether that’s employees, customers or members of the community.

The Laws bring an infectious enthusiasm to their business as the leaders of the Dream Team, their term for their employees.

Make memories.

That’s a defining mission at Broad River Retail, a fast-growing independent Ashley licensee with stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. We visited Broad River for our July/August issue.

And we found that all the employees are Memory Makers. Regardless of their role, all of them focus on “furnishing life’s best memories.”

Energetic owner-operators Charlie Malouf and Manny Rodrigues are masters at building a purpose-driven team and the dynamic culture that supports it.

Promise smooth sailing.

In our September/October issue, we visited Margaret Wright, who owns Annapolis-based Mattress Store, just up the road from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“We have made it our personal mission to make mattress shopping a wonderful experience,” Wright says. Her all-female sales staff provides a no-pressure sales environment in two stores that feature soft lighting, soothing music and a calm atmosphere. Their goal: Deliver professional, courteous assistance.

Blend bricks and clicks.

In this issue you’ll find our articles on the new store design that Sleep Number is rolling out at its almost 675 stores across the country. (See page 12.) It’s a concept that aims to combine the best of the digital and in-store worlds.

The first store to showcase that new retail design opened in Edina in June. It’s packed with digital screens, QR codes, multisensory experiences and sustainable materials. 

If you would like to share your retail story with us, email me at