At a glance
- » Service: Mattress manufacturing
- » Location: Portland, Maine
- » Ideal customer: Seeking small batch production
- » Minimum order quantity: no minimum
- » Maker’s Row profile: makersrow.com/portland-mattress-makers
The Mattress Trend
New mattress startups like Casper and Helix are reinventing the mattress industry, and combining technology, personalization and zappos-like customer service. They’ve managed to raise millions of dollars from investors who believe in the promise of convenient mattress delivery sites that are reinventing the consumer experience of mattress shopping. They’ve made a routine everyday object trendy and exciting again.
We decide to dive into mattress manufacturing, and see how the traditional factories have been constructing mattresses. We interviewed Portland Mattress Makers, a factory that has been perfecting the art of constructing a quality mattress for decades. Portland Mattress Makers are a local mattress retailer in the hipster town of Portland, Maine, whose niche is that they manufacture everything they sell. Because of this vertical integration, they are able to offer high quality at an affordable price.
American Made Quality
Their quality derives from a traditional manufacturing process. All of their mattresses are still made by hand. Many of their mattresses are double-sided, which means that they can be flipped over every few months. This increases the lifetime of the mattress to ten years. Traditionally, mattresses were always made this way, but most other mattress manufacturers have ceased this practice in the interest of cutting costs. Portland Mattress Makers use all of the same suppliers for foam and spring as the big corporate giants in the industry, but they select the best grade among these materials.
Building an American Factory
George Samaras, the owner of the factory, used to be a commercial lender for a bank but always dreamed of working for himself. When he was looking for a company to buy, his only criterion was that it be based in New England. He settled on a small, low-tech company in Maine that produced mattresses and was formerly run by a husband and wife. When George was a banker, he would evaluate companies and determine if they were worth lending to; now he was on the other side of the table, running the company.
Going from a professional environment to running a small business was certainly challenging. Two key employees of the previous owners unfortunately passed away soon after George purchased it, and as a result, knowledge of how to run the factory was lost. Nothing had been written down. Now, George cross-trains his ten employees so that at least two people know how to do each job rather than rely on any one person.
Scoping the Market
George acknowledges that companies like Casper are amazing for urban millennials, but he does not feel any competition from them because he caters to a different market. His physical retail stores target middle-aged and older professionals who want to come in and try their mattresses. The company frequently makes custom pieces that are designed for older homes or beds. They’ve also launched a boat mattress company called Portland Boat Mattress, a new e-commerce venture. Another potential side business they’re imagining is dog beds made from scrap materials. Previously, the company advertised through TV and radio broadcast, but they’ve begun to explore internet marketing, through venues like Maker’s Row.
Mattress Making 101
We asked George to talk us through how their mattresses are made at a high level.
1. Quilt the cover: Fabric, foam and fiber, which are supplied in rolls, go through a quilting machine that sews them together to make rolls of quilted fabric.
2. Make a double-sided structure: The top and bottom pieces of the mattress are cut from the quilted rolls to form the mattress panels.
3. Flange the mattress panels: A flanging machine finishes the edge of the mattress panels and attaches them to the flange. The flange is later used to attach the mattress panel to the innerspring.
4. Layer the inner spring: Padding layers such as foam, latex foam, and/or memory foam are added to the inner spring.
5. Attach quilted mattress panel: The mattress panels are then attached to each side of the mattress and secured with hog-rings, or staple-like fasteners. The mattress panel is hog-ringed around the entire edge of the mattress to create a tight uniform fit.
6. Add border fabric: Border fabric is placed around the sides, between the top and bottom panels, and tape-edged to finish off the mattress.