Article published Sep 21, 2014 in Fosters Daily Democrat.
Clean Bedroom founders not ready to rest
The wife and husband co-owners of The Clean Bedroom have seven showrooms now and plan to open several more each year going forward. They see no end in sight for the business that sells organic mattresses and bedding.
It’s both a healthy mission and an enterprise that’s gone beyond anything they dreamed when they began selling mattresses on a website in 2004.
“We were just sort of winging it and can’t imagine retiring now,” said Chamberlin, 65. Duquette is in his 70s.
The Eliot residents had been in the advertising business and were working for manufacturing clients in the housekeeping industry when Duquette became intrigued by the need for organic mattresses.
He and Chamberlin decided to set up a website and see if they could sell directly to customers.
A day after the site launched, they had their first sale and have not looked back.
After selling for several years only from the website, they decided people wanted to try out the beds before buying. So in 2008 they opened their first showroom in the same building that still houses their headquarters at 5 Shapleigh Road, Kittery.
Today they have showrooms in Portland, Maine; Wellesley, Mass., Greenwich, Conn., New York City, Austin, Texas, and Santa Monica, Calif.
The locations may seem far-flung, but actually are carefully chosen to be within reach of potential customers, who are environmentally aware and have the resources to seek out healthy sleep options.
After making a purchase, the products are shipped directly to customers from the manufacturers.
This allows the Clean Bedroom to avoid stocking expensive inventory. It also makes their showrooms a destination, where potential buyers who already have scoped out products on the website go try out a bed before ordering.
Some drive as much as two hours to visit a showroom.
The most successful location for sales has been New York City, on the 18th floor of a high-rise office building in Manhattan. By the time a customer walks in they know what they want and certainly don’t plan to leave with it in the elevator.
The mattresses are delivered by firms trained to set them up. This is important as mattresses are customized for each buyer. Each side may have different levels of firmness, or other options tailored to allergies or chemical sensitivities.
In 2014, the firm again made Inc. magazine’s 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. It has 30 employees now.
Private investors have made loans to the business to help pay for new showrooms. With the goal of opening several more each year, Chamberlin and Duquette are talking to private equity firms to fund the continued expansion.
“We hope to be a national chain one day,” said Chamberlin.
She envisions clusters of showrooms in areas where they have had success already, creating cost efficiencies in marketing and deliveries.
Over the years the customer mix has changed.
When The Clean Bedroom began, most of its customers had allergies or chemical sensitivities, and were desperate to find safe bedding that didn’t make them sick.
Working with a number of different manufacturers, the company offers products made with pure latex or natural springs, organic wool and cotton fibers, and other materials that don’t aggravate allergies or off-gas chemicals. Often, the materials used in mattresses and bedding can emit harmful gases even years after they are made.
Customer demand shifted dramatically in 2005-6, when TV talk show star Oprah Winfrey and radio star Don Imus’s wife Deirdre began discussing harmful chemicals in mattresses.
“We began getting calls from hysterical moms who wanted a mattress ‘tomorrow’,” said Chamberlin.
Harmful off-gases can be especially damaging to youngsters’ health, and the Clean Bedroom’s organic children’s cribs and beds remain a significant part of their sales.
As environmental awareness has gone mainstream, customer demographics again have shifted. Today, young couples make up a large percentage of buyers, both for themselves and their children, as do older empty-nesters who decide they want to be comfortable and safe now that their kids are out of the house.
“It’s not just a trend, it’s an awareness,” said Chamberlin about healthy beds.
Taking a visitor on a tour of the Kittery showroom, she explains the differences between a traditional mattress that’s made from synthetic latex or foams, and the ones offered by The Clean Bedroom. Organic mattresses they offer have up to 98 percent latex from sustainable rubber trees and other materials such as coconut fiber, sea grass, horsehair, silk and wood.
The organic wool used in covers is not only healthy, it also regulates a sleeper’s body temperature, said Chamberlin. Her customers avoid the hot flashes and pressure points often complained about from conventional bedding.
It’s all about getting a good night’s rest.
“I really believe people are not sleeping on things that are good for their health,” said Chamberlin. “I love it when people capture the vision we have of getting everyone to sleep on a healthy, non-toxic mattress.”
For more information go to www.thecleanbedroom.com or call 207-438-9778.