Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

McMillan Bedding Started Making Mattresses in 1930; Small Company Fills Big Need

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

McMillan Bedding Started Making Mattresses in 1930; Small Company Fills Big Need

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Calnan, Times-Union business writer

Jacksonville's oldest custom-mattress maker, McMillan Bedding Co., is no sleeping giant.

The 73-year-old business is operating with just four employees by filling a void with made-to-order beds and good old-fashioned service.

"They're a small company, but they fill a giant need," said Ann Tiliakos, rental properties manager for the Amelia Island Plantation resort.

Tiliakos manages 900 bedrooms at the resort and has used McMillan mattresses exclusively for the last 20 years. Some guests like softer mattresses, others prefer firmer, so she came up with a special combination with McMillan to satisfy all guests.

"Their beds seem to accommodate that broad spectrum," she said.

McMillan has survived the popularity of water beds, round beds and new foam mattress that manufacturers say were developed by NASA and able to offer body-fitting comfort.

McMillan Bedding, founded by Clarence McMillan, began making mattresses and box springs on Kings Road in 1930. Since the mid-1950s, the company has operated out of two one-story buildings along what is now the Arlington Expressway.

In 1987, current company president Don McCoin, and a partner, became the business' third set of owners. He now operates the business with his wife, Peggy, and two workers.

McCoin declined to reveal sales figures or the number of mattresses McMillan sells each year. But he said about 30 percent of McMillan's customers used to be retail; 70 percent were commercial, mostly from the lodging industry.

The nation's sluggish economy altered the company's sales mix, so McCoin is unsure exactly what it is now.

"Everything's changed the last couple of years," he said.

All of McMillan's mattresses are made to order, but 85 percent of them are standard sizes. The company specializes in custom-made beds and it often makes mattresses for antique beds and boats.

Those special orders get McCoin's creative juices flowing.

"When you deliver it and it fits like a glove," he said. "It gives you a neat feeling because it's like [you created] a masterpiece."

There's more than one way to make a mattress. And McCoin seems to relish showing off the quality of his materials to visitors.

It's pretty easy to sell cheaply made bedding, and most people "buy it blind," McCoin said. That's because the guts of mattresses and box springs are hidden. The only way to find out what's inside is to rip them apart.

Also, a mattress should last 10 to 12 years, McCoin said. Consumers aren't as knowledgable about bedding as other products because they buy it so infrequently.

But long-time customers like Tiliakos buy dozens of mattresses a year and know the difference between the mass-produced and McMillan's products.

"Cheaper is not always better I have found," Tiliakos said. …

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