One of the first things I did when I decided I wanted to start a mattress retail business was to start getting ready. I started small, really small. In fact, I actually sold a few mattresses out of my home! My wife and I had two spare bedrooms (this was before we had kids) and I put in them latex mattresses I bought from Classic Sleep Products. I don’t remember how many I sold out of my home or how I found customers but we did have a few strangers in our home to try out the latex mattresses. Pretty funny when I think back on it. But I just wanted to make a few hundred dollars extra a month while I worked my full time job as a machinist.
The second thing I did to get prepared to start my mattress business was to buy a box delivery truck. Working as a machinist, I didn’t have a lot of extra money to invest in some inventory and a truck so I searched diligently for a really cheap truck. I found a 1980 Ford F350 box truck for sale for about $2500. I called the owner to come and see it. When I got there it was running, warming up because it was a cold day. So I took it for a spin, albeit I only made it about a 1/4 mile up the street before it stopped running on me on the side of the road. Luckily it was on a back road with little traffic. I tried and tried to get it restarted with no success. So I only had to walk back to the owner’s business to give him the keys and let him know I wasn’t interested.
However, though I’m not a mechanic I am decent with a vehicle and in addition, I had friends who I was sure could help. So since the truck didn’t run, I also figured I could get it for much lower than $2500. So I took a friend of mine who was a mechanic to look at the truck a few days later and when he looked at it, he said he could make it run just fine. So I offered the owner $700 for the truck “as is” and he took it.
Luckily I didn’t have to drive it far to get it to my brother’s machine shop where I was going to work on it and keep it parked until I could get it in good running shape. We managed to get it running again and drove it the three miles or so to the shop. It spit and sputtered the whole way but it made it. I worked on the truck for a few months with the help of my mechanic friend and with a little investment it ran very well.
Though it ran very well, it got very bad gas mileage, like five miles per gallon. My mechanic friend said it had the wrong carburetor on it and he showed me the carburetor it needed to make it run much better and get much better gas mileage. He showed me how to rebuild the old used carburetor and how to install it properly and boy did it make a difference! I was then able to deliver a few mattresses with it that I had sold out of my home. But, there was still more work to be done. The floor board in the truck was rusted out badly and you could see the road under your feet. So I repaired it with a fiberglass kit. In addition, the wood floor of the box was completely rotted away so I bought some pressure treated boards, ripped out all of the old wood, and replaced them with the boards. After this, the truck was pretty well ready to be used fully. The paint on the truck was, as you can imagine, horrible. My brother owned a paint gun so I bought some plain white paint and painted it myself in the shop parking lot. My painting skills left little to be desired but it was still an improvement over they way it looked originally.
The next step in my work towards starting my full-time mattress retail business was to find a retail location. Like the truck, I had to do this on a very limited budget. I looked for about year but nothing I could settle on. A friend of mine who knew I was looking for a location told me about an old closed down convenience store. The location was good but it had gas pumps out front which was hardly a good idea to have in front of a mattress store. So I called up a realtor friend of mine and asked him how I could find out who owned it. Since it was abandoned for so long, I figured the owner might want to sell it, cheap then I could have the gas pumps removed. My realtor got back to me a day or two later and told me that it was owned by a local man and had a lease with Gettymart with about 2.5 years left on the lease. At this point I knew the owner wasn’t going to sell as long as Gettymart was making the payments. My realtor was happy because he informed me that Gettymart had subsequently hired him to find a sub-lessor for them. So as far as I was concerned the matter was over. I certainly wasn’t going to sub-lease it as long as it had gas pumps out front.
About a week later I drove by the location and saw a crew in the parking lot taking the pumps out and the tanks out of the ground, apparently preparing it for a sub-lease since the property wouldn’t make it as a gas station/convenience store. So I called my realtor and asked him if he knew the pumps were being removed and he didn’t know so he said he would check into it. He called me back later that day and said that indeed Gettymart was paying to have them removed and I immediately told him I would be interested if the rent price was right. He called back and told me what it was and that it was the same they were paying the local owner to lease it. I told him I wanted it and within days I had a lease contract for the remaining term of the current lease which was about 2.5 years.
The convenience store was leased to me “as is” and it was a total wreck inside and out. The grass hadn’t been mowed for years and there was trash everywhere, especially inside. When Gettymart moved out, they took the coolers and trashed the place on the way out. Boy did I have a lot of work to do to get it prepared for a mattress retail showroom! I hauled off 11 pickup truck loads of trash that was left by the convenience store. The toilets in the bathroom looked like they had never been cleaned in 30 years, and with the water turned off, someone used it! NASTY! So with some rubber gloves, I didn’t attempt to clean them. Instead I unbolted them from the floor and took them out back and scrubbed them with a brush and water hose.
The light fixtures in the store was what you’d find in a warehouse, not a finished retail showroom. So I bought all new recessed light fixtures and replaced the existing. Then all the drop ceiling panels were yellow with age and looked really nasty. But a friend of mine who was a commercial painter said I could paint them without having to replace them. So he and I got his professional spray gun and made them look line new. Next was the walls that needed painting and I went to town. The last thing I needed for the inside was to strip and refinish the Terrazzo floors which turned out magnificent.
On the outside of the store, it had a badly faded awning like structure. I picked a color I liked and painted them like new. Luckily this location had all glass windows on the front which was perfect for a mattress retail location but they were covered in advertisement stickers and looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in decades like the toilets. I scraped and scrubbed for a whole day or more but I finally got them clear. I was finished and was ready to move my mattress lineup in. I’ve been in this location for 15 years now renting it directly from the local owner. At the writing of this, though, two days ago I found out that he passed away at the ripe old age of 89. He had become a dear friend over the years. The property now passes to his two sons I suppose.