Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THAT'S USING the Old BEAN Byron Young Finds Success Selling His Unique Creation, a Foam-Filled 'Bean Bag' That Turns into a Bed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THAT'S USING the Old BEAN Byron Young Finds Success Selling His Unique Creation, a Foam-Filled 'Bean Bag' That Turns into a Bed

Article excerpt

Byline: Brandy Hilboldt Allport, Times-Union home and garden editor

Byron Young wonders if he will always be the "Bean Bag Guy."

Actually that is not such a bad fate for a businessman. Perspective: Fast-food millionaire Dave Thomas is the "Wendy's Hamburger Guy."

Young is an inventor who grew up on the Westside and graduated from Orange Park High School. His latest, most successful creation is a shredded foam-filled bean bag covered in corduroy that turns into a bed. (You unzip the bag's cover, and the bag folds out into a bed.) His product is for sale at kiosks in six malls in the Southeast, including The Avenues and Orange Park Mall. He has four business partners, a sales staff and a manufacturing plant in Gainesville, moving as many as 150 bean bags from each kiosk every week.

Young is far from those excruciating days in 1998 when he sewed the bags himself with a $15 junk shop sewing machine. His high school buddy, Eric Futrell, helped stuff them on the front porch of their Gainesville house or in the back yard. Young hawked them through word-of-mouth, promotions at bars and consignment sales at a head shop.

This is a classic American dream story, so his hard work paid off. By 2000, his bean bags were catching on, and Young hired one seamstress to help him. By late summer, he decided to get a kiosk at the Oaks Mall in Gainesville. The only problem was the $2,000 per month rent. Most of Young's money was tied up in supplies.

"I always knew he could do whatever he wanted to," said Young's father, J.C. Young of Middleburg. "But he never stuck to one thing for very long. But when I saw the bean bag and how committed he was to it, I would have given him my last penny to get into that mall."

When the kiosk opened, Young worked it in the morning and cut liners for his bean bags in the afternoon. Futrell stuffed bags in the morning and worked in the mall until closing.

And then one day, Young got his big break.

John Gasser walked through The Oaks mall with his 11-year-old daughter. She fell back into a bean bag and fell in love with its comfort.

"This is great," she said. "We ought to get one."

Gasser is the former owner of the Athletic Attic chain of stores, which he sold to Just For Feet. He has 15 years' worth of mall development (read, "business contacts") and 12 years of retail experience (read, "business savvy" and "know-how").

When he found out that the bean bag had a useful factor -- a bed inside it-- Gasser was as intrigued as his daughter. The bean bag-cum-bed costs $159 for a full size, $179 for a queen and $239 for a king. Ottomans are $79. Pet beds are $79 for a medium and $99 for a large.

"I had been in thousands of malls, and I had never seen anything like it," Gasser said.

Gasser met with Young, and during the next three months, they set up a partnership, and an ambitious business plan -- expand to 30 locations by Christmas of this year. …

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