Trail 9 Asks: Bedzzz Direct
Trail 9, like any business, would be nothing without our clients! With that being said, we want to start telling our readers about the first-class local businesses we've had the privilege to work with.
Bedzzz Direct has been serving Lake and Porter County with quality mattresses for the past five years. While speaking with Chris, I learned that Bedzzz Direct doesn't just sell mattresses— they help people sleep better. Honestly, we all know how important sleep is, and, after learning about these mattresses, I don't know how anyone could have a restless night on them. Bedzzz Direct rises above its competition with their excellent industry knowledge, a wide selection of high-quality products, and by really caring about their customers getting a good night's sleep.
Chris and I held our interview in his Valparaiso Office, at 1608 E. Lincolnway.
How does Bedzzz Direct stand out in the mattress industry?
We try to stand out more when people come in, rather than before they come in. Obviously, from the standpoint of driving by, people look at us just like any other mattress store, but we stand out when people come in and talk to us. Between myself and the two people that work with me— not even counting my delivery driver— we have 75 years of experience in the industry. So, we have a lot of knowledge, and we try to make ourselves stand out when people come in based on that knowledge. We're not just trying to sell them a mattress— we're trying to help them sleep better.
And, we educate them on our products as well as other products on the market, and we try to help them make the best decision. Besides our combined knowledge, we have products that other stores just don't have. We have unique products that are made from family-owned factories that are almost 100 years old. You can't find these products in other stores, at least not in this area. All of that helps us stand out.
So, how did Bedzzz Direct get started?
Well, like I said earlier, I started in the industry. I was actually a senior in high school when I saw a simple ad in the paper— a job opportunity for a mattress delivery person. The company turned out to be Bedding Experts, which at the time in 1991 was a somewhat large company— they had 25 stores. So, I went into their Merrillville store and applied for the position. I was hired, and later that fall, one of my managers recommended me for sales. So, I never had any experience, obviously— I was right out of high school— but the owner of Bedding Experts at the time had started the company in 1982, and he just had a high school GED, not even a diploma. He'd built the company up to about 60 stores when he finally sold it in 1998 for $40,000,000. So, he gave guys chances all the time— guys that didn't have college degrees, but who just wanted to work hard and had some desire.
So, once I was given the sales opportunity, I took it and worked there for eight years. I then went into the wholesale side of the business, where I worked for the factory that actually built the mattresses. Then, about five years ago, I saw a new opportunity— I'd always talked about opening my own store, and I noticed there was a vacancy here, in this shopping plaza. I talked it over with the factory I was working for, and they supported me, so I was able to continue that work while opening my own store. That was at the end of 2012.
And you opened a second location in Schererville?
Yeah, we opened in Schererville about a year later, and we were there for roughly two years. After that, we moved that store to Merrillville because it was a little more affordable there. In doing that, we saved ourselves about half the rent. Our whole business model is that we keep our overhead low. When you go into our stores, they're not fancy; they're not 5,000 square feet. What most people don't realize when they go into a big box store is that they're not saving money— they're actually spending more, with the impression that they're saving. Big box stores have high commissions, they pay salespeople, they have an average of $10,000-15,000 per month in rent, and they spend, on average, an additional $10,000 a month to advertise. People go into a big box store because their mentality is, "Well, I saw that guy on a commercial," or, "I heard him on the radio, so it must be a good place to get a mattress— I must be able to save money." But really, the best places to buy anything are your smaller, lower-overhead, 'brick and mortars', that are family-owned by people who aren't trying to become millionaires. That's really what we do at Bedzzz Direct— we have competitive pricing. We're able to do that and still make a living because our rent here is very inexpensive, and we spend very little on advertising every month. Most of it is social media driven, word of mouth, and repeat customers.
Can you tell me a little more about your products?
Yeah, I could talk for hours about mattresses. My wife hates it! But, I have a passion— that's probably the biggest thing. I have a passion for mattresses, and even more for helping somebody who's willing to come in to find a better night's sleep. Because people are uneducated about mattresses; they really are. They get on the internet and try to research and gain knowledge that way, but, unfortunately, there's so much bad information out there. It's almost like, if you don't research mattresses on the internet, you're uninformed. But, if you do, you're misinformed. So, what's the best way? To actually go in and talk to someone!
That's why we've had people come in to talk to us who've later left to visit two or three other stores, and they've ended up coming back. They knew that the stuff we said was true; they looked it up. And, they knew that the stuff the other stores were telling them was inaccurate.
But, our product line is unique because our main factory that we buy our beds from is in Rock Island Illinois— it's a company called The Bedding Group. They're 98 years old, the same family's owned it the entire time, and it's the fourth generation now that's been making the same mattresses. They make the old school mattresses that you can flip over as well as organically-made mattresses, made from the natural sap of the rubber tree. Then, they make mattresses that are designed or heavy-duty use, so they don't wear out as quickly as a traditional bed.
You've probably heard of Mattress Firm— they're the largest mattress company in the world— and they say that you're supposed to replace your mattress every eight years. That's their big advertisement: 'Replace Every Eight'. We don't believe that. If you get a good mattress that's made in a way that they used to be made, say 25-30 years ago, then you should at least get 10-15 years out of it. And those are the beds we sell— we sell hand-tufted mattresses and a large range of beds that you won't easily find. It's very hard to find hand-tufted mattresses, it's very hard to find flippable mattresses, and it's impossible to find heavy-duty mattresses that have an Amish-made foundation anywhere but here. And that's the cool thing— the factory has protected us. They don't sell to anyone else in our merchant area.
(Per Mike) What's the deal with the mattress and the big needle?
Oh, well, that's the tufting. If you go online to YouTube and type in 'mattress tufting machine', videos will pop up showing how they tuft the mattress. Tufting has been around since the 1800's, but with technology, when they tuft the mattress now, they actually hydraulically compress it under about a thousand pounds of pressure. Then, the machine tilts the mattress onto its side, and someone comes up with a big needle that pushes all the way through to the other side, and they tie it off. So basically, all over the surface area of the mattress, you have these tufts. And when you release it from the tufting machine, all the tufts will pull down the material tighter. That way, when you sleep on it, you don't get the indentation from laying on it as quickly as you would with a traditional mattress.
So, they last longer?
Yeah, it's a way to extend the comfort life of a bed. That's probably the hardest part about buying a mattress— people go from store to store, and they all feel good when they're new. It's how they're going to feel in three to five years that's important. And that's really the difference we feel with our product line. It'll hopefully feel better for longer than some of the other products around, just because of the way they're made.
And finally, what's in the future for Bedzzz Direct? Do you plan to keep going the way you're going?
Yeah, we're not trying to be a big chain or anything like that. I live in Porter County— I live in Kouts— and I'd like to stay close. I don't need many, many locations, and I'm happy with what I have right now and what we're doing. Valpo is a great community— it really is. So, that's where I want to grow. I want to stay here and grow in Valpo.
There's a gentleman who I model my business after in Shorewood, IL, and he's had two locations for 40 years— it's called City Wide Mattress. He actually just closed one location, just because he's seventy-two years old now. And he's never wanted to be more than one or two stores, but he's built his business in that community. Everybody knows Rick. If you're buying a mattress in Shorewood, you're buying it from Rick at City Wide. There are eight or nine other mattress stores that have popped up around him in the last 20 years, but it's never affected his business. He just kept growing and growing because other people wanted to buy from him— he's local. That's what I want to be like in 25-30 years, just so that I serve the community in that way— that's what I want to do.
Thank you, Bedzzz Direct! And, keep an eye out for our next 'Trail 9 Asks' blog post, and learn more about the fantastic local businesses in our area.