Producer offers low-cost, adaptable bedding but still has big plans for high-end bedding as economy reopens
Pleasant Mattress has two distinct strategies to grow its business during the second half of 2020 and beyond as the nation’s economy emerges from the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the near term, the Fresno, California-based mattress producer is launching new lines and products to serve the growing demand for low-cost, adaptable bedding that can accommodate the additional sleepers residing in many stay-at-home households. At the same time, it is strengthening its stable of marquee luxury brands in preparation for expanding its reach both nationally and internationally when business conditions rebound.
“Our goal is to come out of this COVID-19 period with a strong house of brands that offer the best sleeping experience for consumers, and good profit margins for ourselves and our customers,” says Rion Morgenstern, the third-generation president and chief executive officer of the family-owned company. “To achieve that goal, we’re developing an assortment of truly differentiated products with strong brand stories and feature sets.”
Pleasant Mattress’ core brand lineup includes the Spring Air family of products — Spring Air, Chattam & Wells and Nature’s Rest — as well as Eclipse, Eastman House and Pure Talalay Bliss and Saatva. In addition, Pleasant Mattress produces the McRoskey Mattress line, a long-time West Coast brand that it is preparing for a national introduction. A higher-end complement to Chattam & Wells, McRoskey strengthens Pleasant Mattress’ position at the luxury end with four ultra-premium handmade models, starting at $5,000 for a queen size.
While Pleasant Mattress’ long-term focus is on driving new business in the premium and ultra-premium categories, “we also recognize that, at least for the near future, there are a lot of Americans who are going to need quality bedding at a much more modest price point,” Morgenstern says. “We’re prepared to meet both of these needs.”
MUFNTOP ready to serve
This month, Pleasant Mattress is taking the first step in its effort to meet demand for low-cost bedding with the debut of its MUFNTOP mattress line. Retail priced from $159 to $169 for an adult size, MUFNTOP is a low-profile, high-density foam floor mattress. Simple yet versatile, it provides an extra sleeping surface in a home office, basement or other space and can be stored easily in a closet or under another bed when not in use.
“It serves the same function as an air mattress but with better comfort and support,” Morgenstern says. “Many families right now are in need of a spare bed for a son or daughter who has had to come home from college because of the shutdowns.”
With MUFNTOP, Pleasant Mattress offers a new option for such situations — “an affordable, quality foam bed that can be folded up and stashed away until it’s needed,” Morgenstern adds.
The MUFNTOP line debuts this month on Amazon, and it also will be available through a new e-commerce site created by Pleasant Mattress. “We know a lot about how to make a mattress comfortable, and we’re taking all of that experience and applying it to this niche, which had been small but is becoming more important,” Morgenstern says.
New budget offerings
Also in the works is a new line of two entry-level boxed beds, retailing from $599 in queen size. These beds are intended for budget-conscious consumers in search of a new bed for their homes. The line will provide Pleasant Mattress’ retail partners with a good quality, comfortable bed that can be sold online and delivered in a box, Morgenstern says.
“Retailers generally have been reluctant to embrace the boxed bed concept and, because we deliver our products on a weekly basis directly to their doors in our trucks, there’s been little impetus for them to change,” he says. “They’ve been able to get the products they need in a timely fashion without having to carry much, if any, inventory.”
Going forward, however, retailers will need to rethink how best to serve their consumers in an environment where some consumers may no longer want to visit stores to purchase a mattress. At prices below the luxury segment, compressed and rolled mattresses that are available for rapid shipment are likely to be the order of the day, Morgenstern predicts.
AT A GLANCE
Fresno, California, where it operates 175,000 square feet of production and office facilities
Full-line, licensed mattress producer for the Spring Air, Chattam & Wells, Nature’s Rest, Eclipse, Eastman House, Pure Talalay Bliss and Saatva brands in states that include Arizona, California and Nevada. In 2018, Pleasant Mattress acquired the rights to manufacture the McRoskey line. The company also produces several of its own brands, including MAXX, and supplies OEM and contract products for retailers and e-commerce companies.
Founded in 1959 by Ernst “Ernie” Morgenstern
“Coming out of the COVID-19 period, we expect order lead times to become more compressed by consumer demand,” he says. “There’s going to be much less in-store interaction during the shopping process and much more online buying. When shoppers place their orders, they’re going to want their products delivered within a few days at most.”
Retail is likely to undergo some major shifts as business resumes and consumers head back to stores and workplaces. “The retail experience will be much more individualized, particularly at the high end, where appointments and one-on-one selling will be more of a norm,” Morgenstern says. “At high-end malls in Asia, we’re already seeing new measures in place, such as taking everyone’s temperature at the entrances. Luxury retailers like Gucci are requiring that only one consumer at a time enter their stores.”
In the United States, Pleasant Mattress is working with a partner to develop new tools to make retail environments more sanitary. One product is a low-cost, replaceable bed protector, along the lines of a pillow protector, that will provide a fresh surface for consumers while rest-testing. Pleasant Mattress will serve as its distributor.
McRoskey launch planned for fall
While Pleasant Mattress had to scale back its mattress production during California’s stay-at-home order, the company has been able to continue making beds as an essential service provider. With retail business likely to remain soft for some time, the company has put some of its most ambitious plans on hold, including the launch event for its new McRoskey line, originally slated for June in San Francisco.
“We’ve pushed the McRoskey line launch back to this fall, when some of this uncertainty is behind us,” Morgenstern says. “With the launch, we’ll be expanding the distribution of this revered line to retailers from coast to coast. We’ve worked hard to update the line with fresh looks and features, and we can’t wait to share these changes with the industry.”
In 2018, Pleasant Mattress acquired the right to manufacture, market and distribute McRoskey products both nationally and internationally from Robin Azevedo, the third-generation owner of the 121-year-old company. Azevedo and her family retained ownership of three McRoskey stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As part of the transition, Pleasant Mattress spent several months training a team of 15 workers on the nuances of how to make the premium, handcrafted line. The training included on-site workshops with craftspeople at McRoskey’s former factory in San Francisco, as well as a field trip to several high-end bedding stores and luxury retailers in San Jose, California.
“We wanted our team to see where the products they’re making will be sold and what the feeling of a luxury retailing environment is like,” Morgenstern says. “It was an empowering experience. They gained a new pride for the quality of the work they do — which is second to none — and for the level of craftsmanship our beds have versus the competition.”
Keeping a legacy alive
Handcrafted in McRoskey Mattress Works, a stand-alone, 25,000-square-foot facility on the Pleasant Mattress campus, McRoskey mattresses are built differently than most mattresses and require precise layering because the natural comfort materials are stacked rather than glued together. Prior to the hand-tufting, mattresses can be as thick as 20 inches and require special skills to ensure they are finished correctly for the proper firmness.
“Once our team reviewed the competition, I was pleased to see them point out missed stitches and crooked edges that they would have pulled off the production line and fixed,” Morgenstern says. “The trip helped boost their pride in ownership in how they approach their jobs, as well as show areas in which we can improve.”
The revamped line — which began shipping to the three McRoskey-owned stores in 2019 — features four models and eight comfort levels. The line includes a new pocketed coil model called SoMa, launched by Pleasant Mattress last fall. The name pays homage to McRoskey’s original factory in the South of Market Street neighborhood of San Francisco and features natural materials, such as horsehair, alpaca, cashmere, organic wool and natural Talalay latex.
The McRoskey launch expands Pleasant Mattress’ reach into a universe of national and international retailers. Morgenstern sees big opportunities in major U.S. markets, and he also is excited about the line’s prospects in Asian markets, such as China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
“There is a growing market for luxury goods in these countries,” says Morgenstern, who took a two-year sabbatical earlier in his career to travel the world. “And American-made products with high quality and a strong heritage do particularly well. When we get the pandemic behind us, we expect to really ramp up this new program.”
With the addition of the McRoskey line, Pleasant Mattress enters a new arena of luxury retailing. The line creates a new upper end for its lineup, which previously topped out at $5,000 with the Chattam & Wells brand. McRoskey mattresses start at $5,000 and run as much as $20,000.
“While we will continue to service all our dealers with an array of price points, we are encouraging our customers — once the economy is on track — to shift away from velocity price points to more premium and super-premium products,” Morgenstern says. “Consumers want better mattresses and will pay for the better experience, and that also means more profit for our dealers.”
Pleasant Mattress offers a multibrand lineup that covers a wide range of price points and constructions. Its licensed brands include Spring Air, Chattam & Wells and Nature’s Rest from Spring Air International, and Eclipse, Eastman House and Pure Talalay Bliss and Saatva. Its own brands include MAXX, a line of hybrid mattresses with heavy-duty coils and ultra-high-density foams. In addition, Pleasant Mattress offers private-label programs for larger retailers, such as Mancini’s Sleepworld in the Bay Area.
“Having a good deal of product diversity in our quiver makes us more effective in expanding our relationships with new and existing customers,” Morgenstern says. “Different brands serve different needs in the market, and that gives us an opportunity to stand out on retail floors.”
To make sure that each line it produces has a clear identity, Morgenstern and his team have developed detailed statements, which spell out the key features, benefits and marketing strategies for each brand in relation to its target consumers, who are analyzed based on mindsets, needs and shopping behaviors. The approach enables Pleasant Mattress to develop marketing tools and stories for each brand that go beyond logos and taglines. The effort is led by Niki Weber, chief brand officer, who joined Pleasant Mattress last year.
“Our brand DNA provides a valuable roadmap that guides us at each stage of the process, ensuring both quality during production, as well as clear messaging during the marketing stage,” Weber says. “Increasingly, we’re becoming a systems and data-driven organization, and these statements are a key element of that drive.”
Empowered and accountable
During his time at the company’s helm, Morgenstern has assembled a strong management team of industry veterans and other skilled professionals. The group includes Mike Moore, chief revenue officer; Scott Grossman, chief finance officer; Russell Raymond, chief operations officer; and Weber.
“We have a lean organization and management structure that focuses on three core principles: empowerment, accountability and appreciation,” Morgenstern says. “We all work hard, but we also find time to celebrate our accomplishments as a group.” Four times a year, Pleasant Mattress holds companywide picnics and parties, where its employees, and often their families, gather to relax and socialize.
To prepare Pleasant Mattress for its next stage of growth and evolution, Morgenstern adopted a new management approach in 2019 called the Entrepreneurial Operating System. A set of proven concepts and tools, EOS is designed to help leadership teams achieve three main goals: getting on the same page regarding where they’re going and how they plan to get there; creating discipline and accountability throughout the company; and helping leaders become more cohesive and effective. “EOS is enabling us to look at our business with fresh eyes to identify ways to improve in every area,” Morgenstern says.
As part of EOS — and under normal business conditions — Morgenstern’s managers meet weekly to identify, discuss and solve the biggest challenges or “rocks” impeding the company. In the current pandemic environment, the group meets daily in order to stay on top of fast-moving developments.
“We’re so glad we had this system in place when the pandemic struck,” Morgenstern says. “It’s been a transformative tool that has enabled us to get in front of emerging issues much faster so that we can develop effective solutions and take the necessary actions.”
Maker of Premium Mattresses Started as a Rag Purveyor
Pleasant Mattress’ history is a true rags-to-riches story. Ernst “Ernie” Morgenstern founded the company in 1959 after fleeing from his native Vienna, with his wife, Greta, during World War II. The Morgensterns settled in Fresno, California, where they started the Pleasant Bag Co., buying commercial bags and discarded clothing from thrift shops and converting them into rags for local businesses. A born entrepreneur, Ernie Morgenstern soon evolved his business into mattress repair and recycling after seeing stacks of old mattresses being thrown away, and acquired a commercial sterilizer. That led to the creation of Pleasant Mattress Co., a supplier of restored mattresses to thrift stores and used furniture stores in central California.
In 1967, after graduating from California State University, the Morgensterns’ son, Herb, joined Pleasant Mattress. With the support of his father, Herb Morgenstern led the company’s move into new mattress production in the early 1980s. As the mattress manufacturing business grew and regulations regarding the sale of used bedding changed, the company eventually wound down its mattress restoration activities. In the 1980s, Pleasant Mattress also developed a thriving futon business, becoming one of the nation’s largest producers.
In 1988, Herb Morgenstern and his wife, Judy Davis, purchased a 50,000-square-foot building and moved Pleasant Mattress out of its former facility, a series of cobbled-together chicken coops and other structures that his father had purchased and repurposed over time from local farmers. In 2006, the company finished construction on a new state-of-the-art 100,000-square-foot facility, where it continues to operate today.
In 2009, Pleasant Mattress entered into a partnership to produce Spring Air brands, servicing Northern California. Rion Morgenstern, Herb’s son, joined Pleasant Mattress in 2011 as vice president. He had worked weekends and summer breaks at the family business during his youth, but then spent nearly 20 years as a sales and marketing executive in the technology industry before deciding to focus on bedding.
In 2015, Rion Morgenstern succeeded his father as president and chief executive officer, and Herb Morgenstern became chair. Under Rion Morgenstern’s leadership, Pleasant Mattress led the relaunch of Spring Air’s upper-end Chattam & Wells line in 2016. Based on the enthusiastic response by Pleasant Mattress’ customers, the line’s distribution was expanded to the rest of the licensing network.
In 2017, Pleasant Mattress signed on with Eclipse International and Eastman House as the licensee for Arizona, California and Nevada, and also produces the Pure Talalay Bliss line. In addition, as part of the agreement, Pleasant Mattress produces the popular Saatva Luxury Mattress for sale in those states.
A year later, the company expanded its licensing relationship with Spring Air by adding 11 states — Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii — becoming the largest territory holder of the brand’s 10 domestic licensees. And, in 2019, Pleasant Mattress acquired the license to produce the McRoskey Mattress line.
In the past five years, Pleasant Mattress has developed an export program to four countries. The company expects to build on that experience as it ramps up its new McRoskey Mattress line, which it will market both nationally and internationally.