Entrepreneur opens outlet in village
By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter
New England’s smallest mattress store may just be in Essex Junction. In an industry that seems to value showroom size and gaudy advertising, serial entrepreneur Dan Holtz is coming at it from the opposite side — by touting how small his operation is.
Holtz opened a 1,200-square-foot space on the east side of Post Office Square in April and filled it with mattresses. No signs along Route 15 or in the plaza give up the location. Walk-ins are infrequent, by design. The business operates primarily on a by-appointment basis. Marketing is done through Facebook, Craigslist, Front Porch Forum and the occasional flyer.
Holtz calls the “Mattress By Appointment” outlet a disruptive business model in the industry and says he is outpacing sales expectations. Prices for a queen mattress and box spring are $150 to $1,000. For a king they are $275 to $1,100. He says he saves customers 50 to 80 percent off retail prices in bigger stores because he has no employees and markets through often-free, non-traditional channels.
“I’ve removed virtually all of the overhead associated with a traditional furniture store,” he says in a press release.
His buying power is derived through a national network of “Mattress By Appointment” affiliates. The only requirement of an affiliate is that they buy wholesale from the company headquarters in North Carolina. Owners are otherwise free to run their businesses independently.
“We’re like a buying co-op,” he said during an interview Monday.
Holtz, a resident of Warren who plans to move to Chittenden County this year, most recently left the gluten-free cookie start-up Liz Lovely after co-founding the company in Waitsfield. It was an experience that included an appearance on the TV show Shark Tank and an intense but ultimately failed negotiation with investor Mark Cuban. The Mattress By Appointment opportunity arose when he realized the company headquarters was seeking a Vermont affiliate. Compared with the complexities of the cookie business — with distribution, quality control and bureaucratic oversight constant challenges — the mattress by appointment concept seemed simple.
“Believe me, it’s never been my dream to sell mattresses,” says Holtz. “This just intrigued me because it’s a disruptive business model, it’s a one-man operation, and it’s honestly kind of fun. People walk out really happy. I’m saving people hundreds, if not a thousand dollars in some cases.”
Holtz retains a side project working on a nutrition book and remodeling his home in Warren to list on vacation rental websites.
His experience with Essex has been a pleasant surprise. He didn’t know much about the area until finding the Post Office Square location. He originally assumed he’d locate the business in the retail centers along Route 7 or Dorset Street.
“It’s been a real pleasure to get to know this area,” he said. “To be able to say I’m right next to Five Corners in the Big Lots plaza, everyone knows where that is … There are a lot of residential communities around here and not a lot of competition.”