Northwest Bedding Co. will close in late July, laying to rest more than 50 years of mattress manufacturing in Spokane.
The company rose to fame with its pillow-top mattresses, which were a staple at the historic Davenport Hotel, Coeur d’Alene Resort and Northern Quest Resort and Casino.
Neil Diamond bought one after a Spokane concert and a stay at the Davenport.
“He really fell in love with the mattress … and flew it back home,” said Lee Kvalheim, the company’s minority shareholder.
The decision to close Northwest Bedding comes as the majority owner, Bob Evanson, is in poor health, Kvalheim said. Evanson didn’t have a succession plan in place and key people left the company, resulting in a “brain drain on our upper management,” he said.
At its height in 2007, Northwest Bedding was doing about $14.5 million in annual sales, Kvalheim said. He’s projecting sales in the $8 million range this year.
The number of employees at the company’s West Plains factory and two Spokane area retail stores also shrunk over time, from about 72 to less than 30, he said.
Northwest Bedding will start its “going out of business” sales next week and wrap up operations around July 23.
Northwest Bedding moved to Spokane from Southern California in 1966, after the owners – Charles and Betty Conklin – decided they’d had enough of the freeway traffic and smog, according to a company press release from 1970s. The turmoil from the Watts Riots, which rocked Los Angeles in 1965, also played into their decision.
Evanson grew up near the Conklins in California, working at the mattress factory after school and during summer vacations. In an 1994 interview, he described getting his work permit at age 13 and carrying out the trash and sweeping floors for 75 cents per hour.
Evanson joined the Conklins in the company in 1966 and eventually bought them out. Evanson’s wife, Marilyn, also was involved in the business. The couple later divorced and Evanson bought out her ownership, according to Kvalheim.
Old newspaper clippings describe Northwest Bedding’s growth from a business with six employees and a 2,000-square foot showroom to a regionally recognized firm. Expo ‘74 helped push the company’s sales past the $2 million mark.
Northwest Bedding’s wholesale division sold mattresses across the Northwest and Alaska through more than 100 dealers. The company’s commercial division had accounts with institutions, such as universities and prisons. It cultivated the hotel industry with high-end models. And it sold its own products at stores on North Division and Spokane Valley.
Besides the pillow-top, Northwest Bedding was known for its catchy TV jingles and the specialty latex, called talalay, in its mattresses.
“It’s a wonderful cushioning material,” Kvalheim said, “and a product that breathes better than polyurethane foams.”
The latex kept the mattress from retaining heat, and hotel guests noticed, he said. The Davenport Hotel’s shop stocked and sold the mattresses. Besides Neil Diamond, other celebrities ordered the mattress, including Skate America participants.
“We knew how to make mattresses and we knew how to sell them,” Kvalheim said.
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