Hats off to our honorees | Sheila Long O’Mara

I’ve just returned from the 19th annual Bedding Conference, and what a great couple of days in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Picking my favorite part would be tricky. There were so many incredible moments, so I’ll just say one of my favorites was celebrating with our honorees. Two retailers, both of which are growing in a down environment, and the longtime president of the international Sleep Products Assn., took home hardware from our traditional awards gala.

Retailers first, please.

Fairfield, Ohio-based Furniture Fair and Boulevard Home, of St. George, Utah, took honors as our Retail Giants of Bedding The award is steeped in a history of celebrating great sleep retailers. Those who step beyond the me-too approach and offer that special something that makes retail stand out.

While the honors are not the only reason we have a conference — we like to bring the brightest in the industry together for idea sharing and networking and learning — it is nice to be able to set aside some time to recognize the good stuff.

Both companies are family-owned and have long roots in their communities. Those roots have helped them grow and expand throughout the years.

Fourth-generation-owned Furniture Fair was founded in 1963 by Robert “Bob” Daniels in Erlanger, Ky. The retailer recently opened its second store in Indiana and currently has a strong foothold in Ohio and Kentucky with its 12 stores.

Boulevard Home marks its 50th anniversary this year and, last spring, opened a new store in Las Vegas, taking the company’s total store count to five. Owned by 37 members of the Wittwer family and under the third-generation management, the company operates one dedicated sleep store in its hometown of St. George, Utah. The other locations are full-line furniture stores that include robust mattress showrooms.

These folks don’t play when it comes to selling mattresses, adjustable bed bases and sleep accessories. There are a number of lessons to be learned in each company’s approach, but a common theme runs through them: Treat your customers like family; make sure each person matters.

Spend just a few minutes with them, and their passion for the business comes shining through. They are amazing ambassadors for our industry to their customers.

Our Lifetime Achievement of Bedding honoree has spent more than 20 years advocating for and helping shape the direction for the sleep products industry. Ryan Trainer has a long, steady career with the association and has been instrumental in helping the industry begin its move toward sustainability, circularity and a more collaborative approach in tackling the big issues.

He joined the association in 2008 as general counsel and the No. 2 executive for the organization. He ascended to the president’s seat in 2010. His leadership and steady hand is one that will be missed when he retires later this year.

Good people doing good things in an industry that we all call home. That’s pretty special and always leaves me with a smile.

We’ll have full coverage of the Bedding Conference in next week’s issue of Furniture Today. Be sure to check it out.

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