David Perry — Furniture Today, January 11, 2011
David Perry”David Perry Executive editor”
CHELSEA, Mass. — Bedding veteran Ed Bates drove through this Boston suburb the other day, revisiting his bedding roots.
Here was the site of his first bedding factory, a 5,000-squarefoot facility he opened in 1972. And here on Library Street was where he moved in 1975 and later expanded his operations.
He stopped outside the brick building on Library Street, which he left years ago when he moved to his current 77,000-square-foot building on Second Street. The former brick Spring Air factory building now has a new lease on life as Atlas Lofts, a trendy apartment building.
“It’s amazing what they’ve done here,” Bates marveled. Some of the signs in the old Spring Air factory have even been used to give the building an echo of its past. Bates pointed out one of the signs that can be seen from the parking lot.
Just as that old factory has a new life, so does the venerable Spring Air brand, whose history dates back to 1926. And it was Ed Bates himself who gave Spring Air a fresh start in the market.
He built Spring Air’s Chelsea operation into a key player for the brand for decades. But after he sold the business in 2007, he found himself with time on his hands. He also found that he missed the bedding business.
He returned to Spring Air as the company’s hero in 2009.
In May of that year, the former owner of Spring Air shut the company-owned factories, including the one here formerly owned by Bates. His quick action to buy the factory and reopen it brought plaudits from the local media, where he was hailed for saving jobs. Not everyone can be a Warren Buffett, he told one reporter at the time, but everyone can do his part to help rebuild the economy.
Bates not only bought his former factory, he also acquired rights to the Spring Air brand. It was under his tutelage that a new entity, Spring Air International, emerged, with licensees signing on to market Spring Airbrand mattresses from coast to coast. Bates is the major owner of the Spring Air brand, and is chairman and CEO.
One of his early moves was to reach out to bedding veteran Rick Robinson, who was working for A.H. Beard in Sydney, Australia, at the time. Robinson agreed to become president of the company.
“When Ed called,” Robinson said, “I knew it was right. I knew this was the right challenge for me.”
The two said they make a good team.
“Ed is a good sounding board,” Robinson said. “He knows what it’s like to operate a factory and to establish relationships with local retailers. He understands, better than anyone else, what licensees need to be successful. And he keeps everybody grounded.”
Bates has the final say on all bedding operations, Robinson said.
While Bates focuses on communications and relations with the licensees, Robinson focuses on the sales and marketing ends of the business.
Other members of the Spring Air corporate team include Eric Spitzer, senior vice president; J.P. LeDoux, vice president of sales; Bill Frame, vice president of manufacturing; and Heidi Kleinman, director of sales training.