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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane company is a real sleeper

Bert Caldwell The Spokesman-Review

Dynamic as they are, Walt and Karen Worthy did some research prior to the reopening of The Davenport Hotel lying down.

The couple sampled mattress after mattress before settling on one that has become one of the hotel’s signature amenities. The plush king- or queen-size beds with the pillow-topped mattresses have become so popular, guests comment on them constantly. Singer Neil Diamond ordered one after a night’s stay. So did comedian Ryan Stiles.

Walt Worthy says the hotel has sold three or four truckloads of the beds since the Davenport reopened in July 2002. Northwest Bedding General Manager Hal Patton says that, at $799 retail, sales at the company’s showrooms exceed the 300-plus initially delivered to the hotel.

“We ship them all over the country,” he says, noting that participants in Skate America two years ago have also been buyers. Guests often return home after a night at the Davenport and realize how much their own bedding is lacking, he says.

The Montvale Hotel recently opened with its own brand of mattress built by Northwest, and Patton says he hopes to sell to the Coeur d’Alene Resort as well. Premium hotels are realizing that premium bedding helps set them apart from mid-market competition, he says.

“Hotels have forgotten the primary purpose of staying in a hotel is a good night’s sleep,” says Montvale owner Rob Brewster. He, too, tried different mattresses at home, and also sampled those in high-end hotels.

After all, Patton adds, after guests have walked through the fancy lobby, had a drink at the bar and worked off the prime rib in the gym, where do they spend much of the rest of their time? In bed. “The worse thing is you get a bad bed and you get a rotten night’s sleep,” he says.

Patton knows his bedding. Northwest makes 80 different mattress models for everything from college dormitories to recreational vehicles to hotels to the fanciest homes, where cushy latex mattresses are all the rage. Patton says the company will make bedding of any size, which is sometimes necessary when customers are trying to fit an antique bed.

He likens beds to shoes; no one fits everybody.

Northwest ships mattresses to furniture stores all over the Northwest and into Utah and Nevada. Sales in 2004 hit a record $12 million, which Patton attributes to the boom in new housing. The 39-year-old company also sells furniture in its own showrooms.

The company’s 60 employees — the number fluctuates with the seasons — construct 300 mattresses each day. (No sleeping here!) All have a buyer when they go out the door of Northwest’s West Plains plant, which once housed a boat factory.

Patton says he has been trying to interest his hotel customers in custom products for years. Most tell their buyers to purchase a commodity product at the lowest price possible. It took the Worthys’ personal involvement to make the breakthrough at the Davenport, he says. As it did Brewster’s at the Montvale. Mattresses for both hotels are pillow-tops, but the fabrics are different and the Montvale’s incorporates a different spring design.

Besides receiving products with a distinctive design and label, the hotels as well as Northwest benefit from the cross-promotion in the mattress-maker’s advertising, Patton says, who also credits the hotels for buying locally despite competition for the bedding contracts from companies outside the area.

National chains are climbing on the custom bedding bandwagon. Marriott International, for example, last week announced it will upgrade 638,000 beds this year at a total cost of $190 million. Westin, Hilton and Sheraton are engaged in what amounts to a global pillow fight, with each trying to outdo the other. The fight for differentiation has gotten right down to sheet thread count.

Patton says huge international accounts are beyond the production capacity of Northwest, but he notes that developer Dick Vandervert has made the effort to get bedding specifications from Hilton, Hampton Inn and Quality Inn so Northwest could make them in Spokane for his properties.

“We’ve been buying from him for 18 years,” Vandervert says. “Why should I buy from somebody I don’t know in South Carolina?”

Patton says he appreciates the support Spokane businesses give each other, noting that Hospitality Associates is another customer.

“We don’t have a national name, but we have a very big local name,” he says.