At Sandman Sleep, Comedy Shows and Sound Baths Help Sell Mattresses

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Inventive events, from sound baths to comedy shows, connect this retailer to its community.

IN SYNC Sandman Sleep co-owners Kim and Rich Hanschu pose on an Avocado Green Mattress inside the showroom.
IN SYNC Sandman Sleep co-owners Kim and Rich Hanschu pose on an Avocado Green Mattress inside the showroom.

If you’ve ever found yourself awake in bed, hoping the elusive Sandman would bring you a good night’s sleep, then look no further than a historic block in Columbus, Ohio. It’s there you’ll find him in the window of a white stone building at 44 N. High St., sitting on a crescent moon and sprinkling his somnolent dust. Well, at least in logo anyway. The folkloric figure serves as the namesake and brand identity of Sandman Sleep. The company’s Columbus outpost — which opened on April 1, 2022 — is its newest location, following successful stores in Chicago and Naperville, Illinois. 

Housed inside a nearly 100-year-old building with high ceilings and exposed brick walls, the retailer gives customers the feeling of stepping into an art gallery rather than a mattress store. But those elegant features are only partially responsible for its calming atmosphere; the rest is the warm personalities of co-owners Kim and Rich Hanschu, who opened the Columbus store with their business partners Parker Boveroux and Joe Armetta. Although the Hanschus never planned to get into the sleep products industry, you wouldn’t be able to tell based on how enthusiastically they’ve embraced their community — and vice versa. Keep reading to learn how Sandman Sleep stands out from traditional retailers with its focus on digitally native brands and creative community events.

From Airline Aisle to Mattress Haven: The Hanschus’ Unexpected Journey

For the Hanschus, the stars always seem to align. Take, for example, how they met. Thirty years ago, Kim Hanschu was working as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines (now Delta Airlines), and Rich Hanschu was a passenger. The rest, as they say, is history. The couple settled in Columbus, which they’ve called home for the last 28 years. As for meeting their future business partners? Well, that also happened by chance. Armetta is CEO of Galvanize Giving, a Chicago-based for-profit fundraising company. Rich Hanschu, a longtime logistics professional, met Armetta when he arranged deliveries of items sold at fundraisers.

Once Boveroux and Armetta dreamed up the idea for Sandman Sleep in 2018, the Hanschus took the opportunity to invest. The concept? Stocking digitally native brands. In the showroom, shoppers will find products from Avocado, 3Z Brands (Bear, Birch, Brooklyn Bedding, Nolah), Brentwood Home, Magniflex, Malouf, Nectar, Nest, Plank, Puffy, PlushBeds and WinkBeds. “With the online brands, what we’re trying to do is in the places where they don’t have showrooms, let us be your showroom,” Rich Hanschu says. “We thought this could be a great investment, and it has been.”

Inside the store, it’s a family affair. There are only five employees, including the Hanschus and their daughters Kendra and Danica. “Kim and Rich, along with their two daughters, are an amazing family that is the lifeblood of our Columbus operation,” Boveroux says. “They are pillars of the community who made their home and raised their family in Columbus. We are incredibly fortunate to have them as partners. They know the community better than anyone could and have been instrumental in driving the on-the-ground campaigns and events.” 

Beyond Mattresses: Building Connections Through Events

PIECE OF HISTORY Sandman Sleep’s building at 44 N. High St. used to be home to Marshall Printing Co. in the 1930s.
PIECE OF HISTORY Sandman Sleep’s building at 44 N. High St. used to be home to Marshall Printing Co. in the 1930s.

Ever thought about going to a comedy show in a mattress store? Most likely, no. But Sandman Sleep doesn’t do things traditionally. The retailer recently partnered with Don’t Tell Comedy, a pop-up comedy series that hosts events in 100 cities across North America. Guests purchase tickets to the shows, but the locations aren’t disclosed until 24 hours in advance. Were visitors surprised to find out they were going to a mattress store? Probably. But the way the Hanschus see it, it’s good for business. “The way we look at it is everybody’s going to buy a mattress in the next 10 years. We just want them to know about us,” Rich Hanschu says.

There’s also Sip and Sheets, an invitation-only event series dreamed up by Kim Hanschu. The couple invite residents of nearby luxury apartment buildings to the Sandman Sleep showroom, where guests enjoy breakfast, mimosas and Bloody Marys. Everyone leaves with a free set of sheets, no strings attached. Again, when they need a mattress or accessories, hopefully, they’ll think of Sandman.

Sandman Sleep also hosts complimentary sound baths and meditation events monthly. Feedback has been positive, and sometimes they get repeat visitors, which they welcome. They’ve even hosted music shows and a fundraiser to fight human trafficking. By focusing on events rather than traditional advertising, they spread the word about Sandman Sleep organically, while providing an enjoyable space for residents to create connections, which the couple say is the heart of their business.

Relax, Refresh, Recharge: The Sandman Sleep Approach to Mattress Shopping

Although the special events are fun, what do shoppers who visit Sandman Sleep’s store on a regular business day experience? Well, the Hanschus do their best to make that enjoyable, too. 

“When people come in, our first process is getting them comfortable,” Rich Hanschu says. “If you got caught in the rain, let’s hang up your coat. Here are your restrooms. I have water, coffee and snacks. Just kind of get settled.”

 If the amenities don’t put shoppers at ease, the friendly demeanor of someone on the team probably will. Due to the store’s inventory of online-only brands, Hanschu says that some shoppers come in knowing the mattresses they want to rest-test. Others want to be left alone while they peruse. He says that the team intuits the type of experience shoppers want and delivers it. 

“Seven out of 10 people who come in buy a mattress because of the quality of the brands. It’s not a high-pressure thing. We want people to relax and find the right bed,” he says. 

All the brands in this showroom have pricing that starts in the $1,200 to $1,500 range for queen sizes. On the high end are plush and ultra-plush mattresses from Avocado, which retail for $4,199 and $4,999, respectively.

Taking care to deliver a variety of experiences tailored to customers’ needs, the store has regular showroom hours from Friday through Tuesday but offers appointments on Wednesdays and Thursdays. “We get some elderly shoppers, and it’s a nice way for them to get in. They don’t feel rushed or pushed and can just enjoy the showroom,” he says. “We’re not looking to be like some of the big retailers where I need 150 people a day coming through the showroom. We get about 100 people a month through the showroom. It’s very relaxed.”

Customer Satisfaction: Building Trust Through Low Return Rates

Some companies, including Avocado and Helix, let Sandman Sleep offer its customers showroom discounts, paid for by the companies. “They’re taking the money they would have allocated for returns and allowing us to give it to the customers,” Hanschu says. “Because the odds are, they’re going to keep the bed.” Another positive of Sandman Sleep’s business model is its low return rate. Last year, Hanschu estimates that the store only had “10 or 12.” If a customer does decide to return a mattress for whatever reason, they will get their money back, not just store credit. He says he doesn’t believe in trapping people’s money in the showroom. 

Between its focus on brands that are typically direct-to-consumer, creative events and friendly customer service, there’s a lot to admire about Sandman Sleep’s operation. But at the heart of everything, it’s all about people. 

“I feel like we’ve made a lot of friends we could hang out with, even if we don’t,” Kim Hanschu says. “And I love the fact that when people come in here, they say, ‘This has been such a great experience. We are so glad that we were able to come in and try these mattresses out.’”

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