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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Family Inspiration Drives Business Shift for Organic Sleep by Sleep Etc

Aug 03, 2014 04:03AM ● By Natasha Michaels and CJ Golden

Jeff & Tamar Klein

In this day and age, many individuals seek gurus and lifestyle coaches for guidance about best practices and direction. Some, like Jeff Klein of Sleep Etc, are lucky to find that kind of inspiration from those closest to them, like his wife and young daughter. When his daughter was born seven years ago, Klein’s wife made him “see the light” about the toxic chemicals and components in the mattresses and bedding he was selling in his two Connecticut stores.

“It was 2007 and the right time and place for change to take place,” Klein says now of the business decision to shift from selling conventional bedding and mattresses to a natural and certified organic line. “There were changes in the industry which were concerning me, with most manufacturers taking the path of least resistance in meeting new fire retardant standards by adding more toxic chemicals. My wife talked to me about research she was doing, and made me realize there was another way to go.”

TerraBed is Organic Sleep’s signature line, an all natural, certified organic mattress line processed in Connecticut. Various elements are sourced from New Zealand (wool), Sri Lanka (latex) and Maryland (the beds). “We do our best to keep the whole process clean and free of allergens and toxic chemicals,” Klein states. “I love that our line is USA-made because it’s not only healthier to sleep on, but its production is reducing the carbon footprint too.”      

Sleep Etc is a legacy business in Fairfield County, having operated in the area for more than 45 years. With current locations in Stamford and Norwalk, Klein says their customer base is also generational and customers travel from New York and Hartford for their unique products. The evolution from conventional products to a more earth and health-friendly line has changed their customer base a little, he explains, but there was a good business reason for the change.

“There was an emotional and logical health reason to make the shift which was inspired by my daughter and wife,” Klein says. “But there was also a good competitive reason because larger stores were coming to the area and I needed to give Sleep Etc a fresh approach.”

The change in direction has worked, in large part because - despite increasing demand and interest - organic mattresses still aren’t seriously on the radar of larger manufacturers. However, he is concerned about the “greenwashing” of the industry. Klein has seen examples of organic covers placed on synthetic and toxic mattresses then sold as organic.

“This really is a case of buyer beware. To protect themselves, consumers should ask to see the certifications on the materials of any product they are considering buying,” Klein advises. “If every mattress store carried natural mattresses there wouldn’t be a need for the specialty category. We’re not there yet and we may never get there since the big companies are primarily interested in what they can mass-produce and ship to hundreds of dealers. But what we are seeing is clever marketing and misleading information designed to make consumers think some mass-produced mattresses are healthier when they aren’t.”

He thinks small chains with the boutique mentality will continue to be the leaders in natural and organic mattresses and bedding for some time to come. “The average is that every six years people are in the market for a mattress for someone in their family,” Klein says. “As the volume for natural products grows, the price point will continue to go down which means more people will be interested. Who doesn’t want to buy a healthier product for their family if they can afford it? People who do their homework are willing to spend a little more and travel a bit to find the right product.”

In addition to their TerraBed line – which comprises approximately 75 percent of their products – Sleep Etc also carries the Carpe Diem line of beds from Sweden. Klein is excited to be shifting production of the Carpe Diem line – one of the highest rated beds in the industry – to the U.S., where it will be relaunched under a new name.

Organic Sleep at Sleep Etc has two showrooms in Connecticut, located at 508 Main Ave, Norwalk and 55 High Ridge Rd, Stamford. For more information, call 203-846-2233 (Norwalk) or 203-323-1509 (Stamford) or visit OrganicSleep.com. See ad, page 37.

Natasha Michaels is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings.