VALPARAISO | Chris Paulk entire career has been spent in mattresses and foundations.
Paulk, who recently opened his second Bedzzz Direct store, began working in the industry as a high school senior delivering mattresses for a well-known furniture store that developed into a huge chain of bedding stores before it was sold to a national retailer.
From its owner, Bob DeMicco, Paulk learned the business and how to treat customers.
“He showed me and the industry how it was done and how having a good product and treating the customers right means everything,” Paulk said.
After high school graduation, his part-time job led to a full-time sales position and then into the wholesale side of the business.
Now, 22-year later, Paulk owns the Bedzzz Direct stores in Valparaiso he opened in January 2012 and his Schererville store that opened in late December 2013. He still remains on the job as a bedding manufacturers’ representative.
The name, Bedzzz Direct, is something people will remember with the ‘zzz” a play on the word denoting sleep, Paulk said.
He chose Valparaiso for his first store because of its proximity to his home in Hebron and because ”it’s one of the best communities in Northwest Indiana."
“It’s a growing community,” Paulk said. “People there want to keep their business local. They have a ‘hometown’ attitude.”
The store opened when the economy still was in a recovery stage.
“So opening a new business was a bit scary,” Paulk said. “We chose the location of the store because it was the ideal place with inexpensive rent and low overhead. It allowed us to go into a new situation and to survive until we were established.”
The Schererville store was chosen after Paulk looked at a number of other communities and shopping areas.
Schererville is part of Tri-Town area that’s richly based,” he said. “We looked in Michigan City, Portage, Crown Point and Merrillville, but we weren’t able to fund perfect size we need, a 1,500-square-foot showroom.”
The smaller size, means smaller rent.
“It sufficient and efficient,” Paulk said. “You don’t want to be a slave to landlord. It’s a visible location that is the model I’ve decided to go with and that allows us to survive the leaner years.”
Paulk used personal loans of about $40,000 to outfit and equip the first store and another $10,000 to $15,000 to open the Schererville location.
“’We had to purchase a delivery truck, equipment, signs and get the store’s ready to open,” he said. ”We’re doing OK, making some money. It’s taking two years to pay off initial investment, and we should be debt free by the end of 2014 and we’re looking like we can hit that.”
Bedzzz Direct sells 30 styles of mattresses, all made with all American-made components by The Bedding Group, a 47 year-old privately-held company in Rock Island, Ill. Its foundations – box springs – are made by the Amish in Iowa.
“We work hand in hand with the factory,” Paulk said. “We have two truck shipments a week from factory where the mattresses are produced just days before they’re ordered and shipped to us."
The business is “slowly but surely” making a name for itself,” Paulk said. “We just want to stay local, not be a big chain,” he said. “We’re really a down-home place. We want people to come in and have a good experience. If you don’t treat people right, they won’t come back.”
Customers want the best price and the very best service.
“That’s what we’re about,” Paulk said. “Our ability is service, price, and taking care of any problems after the sale. We’re set up so customers are 100 percent satisfied. If you treat people the right way they will tell friends and they’ll tell their friends. That’s how you grow.”