Looking for A Good Night’s Sleep? Go to Craig’s BedsCraig Fruchtman just wants you to be comfortable. Published: October 18, 2018
New York might be the City that Never Sleeps, but it sure has a complicated relationship with mattresses. Upon moving here, you quickly find yourself making your first non-tourist pilgrimage—to a Sleepy’s showroom in Brooklyn or Queens or Manhattan—and buying a discounted floor model to save yourself from crashing on a greasy apartment floor. Over the years, you’re bombarded by subway ads for beds in boxes, assailed by curiously misspelled TV jingles (1-800-M-A-T-T-R-E-S, eh?), and threatened by sidewalk-discarded innerspring twins that you’ll cross the street to avoid, fearing the fabled cootie-scourge of bedbugs.
Yes, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere—but knowing how to get the most restful night’s slumber at the most affordable price is still a pain in the lumbar. Luckily, Craig Fruchtman is here to help.
The owner of Craig’s Beds, a by-appointment-only showroom on the sixth floor of a nondescript office building in Midtown Manhattan, Fruchtman isn’t just another salesman hawking memory foam and ultra-plush pillow tops at insane markups. He’s the best-reviewed seller on Yelp seven years running, stocking almost exclusively a model—the Summerfield—he designed himself, and abiding by a professional code of no-pressure tactics and a total aversion to bullshit.
“I saw that the mattress business had a terrible reputation,” explains Fruchtman, sitting in front of a computer screen at the front of his cramped suite. “I thought that, if I just treated people fairly and addressed their complaints on the mattress business in general—no strong-arming, no mental mumbo-jumbo—then I would be OK.”
A cordless phone on Fruchtman’s desk rings. He answers. A telemarketer. He listens for a few seconds, feigns a silent snore, then interrupts. “What are you trying to sell? Thank you, no.” It’s a rare glimpse at the master critiquing another salesman’s labored windup, but it demonstrates another of Fruchtman’s professional philosophies: When the telephone rings, answer it. “I try not to let it go to voicemail,” he says. “If I can take five minutes and quell a customer’s concern, that’s good business.”
Fruchtman has been honing his strategy since 2009, when he got into the bed game on a whim. He had been helping his father with his textile manufacturing business—still located just across the hall—but started researching online mattress sales to supplement his income. He was successful. Then he was too successful.
“All of a sudden, my sales were growing more and more, and back at headquarters the reps from other stores were complaining—‘Craig is underselling the market!’” he explains. “The truth is, I was—but a lot of online sellers were doing the same thing. Their customers didn’t feel comfortable in their stores, and knew they could go online and get a good product and save money.”
The complaints got so frequent that the brand Fruchtman worked for threatened to cut him loose—he needed to charge more, sell less, be a bit, well, worse at his job.
“The more I sold, the more stressed I was, but bottom line, I didn’t get into this business to be bullied,” he says. “With my background in manufacturing, I knew I could make them for less.”
He handpicked mattress constructions that he knew to have the highest customer satisfaction—minimizing returns is essential because no one buys a gently used mattress, and Fruchtman can’t resell them anyway. The Summerfield line was born. The showroom came six months later, after he realized people kept showing up at the address on his business card (still the textile business) expecting to find, you know, mattresses. It turns out people really do still enjoy rolling around on their potential purchase.
These days, Fruchtman’s customers schedule time to get what he calls the “Craig’s Beds Workout,” some relaxed showroom testing and a laundry list of questions:how they sleep, back or side, what type of mattress they currently sleep on, whether they’ve experienced anything more comfortable at a hotel or someone else’s house, etc. Fruchtman doesn’t push the latest technologies or the priciest models—inventory ranges from $500 to $2,000, with an average cost of $1,200—and he doesn’t rely on chiropractic pseudo-science to make the decision. It’s all about personal comfort.
“All those commercials popping up today: ‘Look at the perfect alignment our bed gives!’ If you want to see perfect alignment, you’re going to have to get an MRI,” Fruchtman says. “You’ve got mattress salesmen giving advice on people’s backs! I’m no doctor, but I speak to doctors, and believe me, they don’t know, either. They say pick whatever feels most comfortable. If a bed is comfortable, it’s signaling to your mind that it’s supporting you and you’re less likely to move around at night. Everyone is built differently, so the right mattress is the one that makes you feel set.”
“Pick something you like sleeping on” may not sound like revolutionary advice, but Fruchtman still considers himself the industry’s first disruptor—and he knows that retail space will become rarer as the popularity of bed-in-a-box e-commerce sites grows. He doesn't mind the competition, of course, but he does offer a word of warning regarding the recent market flood.
“They’re robbing people of a better choice,” he says. “I promise you, if I brought you a truck with 12 beds to choose from, you’d never pick [the boxed mattress].” According to Fruchtman, memory foam mattresses are, in general, rather polarizing, and the people purchasing them unseen and untested are quickly discarding them, filling landfills, driving up the price of foam and other raw materials, and will eventually make the business model unsustainable at current prices. “It’s just a marketing scheme,” he concludes. “You’re not buying anything except that rectangle, and they’re laughing all the way to the bank.”
Regardless of the next big industry pivot, one gets the sense that Fruchtman could be the last man standing—or comfortably lying down, as the case may be. There’s simply too much at stake in the quest for a good night’s sleep, and Fruchtman knows better than anyone what New Yorkers demand of their beds.
“You’re living in New York for the opportunity and the convenience,” he says. “You’re working, pursuing a passion, doing activities—so New Yorkers need their sleep. If you don’t get sleep, you’re not going to perform at your job, you’re not going to move up, you’re not going to have fun. Without sleep, it’s going to be a miserable existence.”
He shifts in his seat. “But I don’t want to oversell it,” he says, grinning. “I just sell mattresses.”