It’s been nearly 50 years since the launch of Bay Area mattress company Mancini’s Sleepworld. That history lives on in the original store in Sunnyvale — and in the person of Randy Mancini, who took the reins of the business after the death of his father in 1987.
Now with 32 stores in the Bay Area and one in Modesto, Mancini’s Sleepworld has remained a family-owned business as the industry consolidates.
Among the brands Mancini’s carries is Aireloom, a high-end mattress brand said to have held John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan in its luxurious embrace. Top-of-the-line Aireloom mattresses cost more than $16,000 in king size.
But while Aireloom and other manufacturers still rely on fundamental mattress materials, the industry is starting to adopt new technologies that are bringing sleep into the 21st century. Watch for built-in sensors in the next couple of years that, combined with apps and processors, make mattresses “smart” to ensure a better night’s sleep.
Mancini, the company president, sat down with us recently to talk about the future of sleep and which mattress the Bay Area’s mattress king will be sleeping on tonight. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Q What have been the biggest advancements in mattress comfort since you started out?
A Coil technology, memory foam and other high-quality materials — mattresses now can help you sleep cooler, they can help you sleep warmer, depending upon your needs. A mattress is no longer just a static product. It’s really something that can help you get a more restful night’s sleep. That’s why it’s really important to get fitted into the right mattress, based on body shape, sleep hot/sleep cold, toss-and-turn, stomach sleeper. There’s a fair amount of work to go into making sure you’re purchasing the right product.
Q What are the most important things to consider when you’re deciding on a mattress.
A You go into one of our stores, it can start out a little overwhelming. You might walk into one of our bigger stores that has 65 products to pick from. If you’re a side sleeper, stomach sleeper, that helps point in one direction. If there’s a big size difference between you and your partner, motion separation is a big consideration. Some people prefer coils in a mattress because they like the pushback. And some like the memory foam type of feel, like Tempur-Pedic. From there it’s just a trial-and-error process of elimination, spending time on the mattress, working your way through the comfort layers — too soft, too hard … too hot, too cold — and eventually you find the perfect mattress.
Q Artificial intelligence has started appearing in mattresses — do you see AI and connected apps as important in mattress technology?
A I do see a benefit of it. There are a lot of apps that monitor your sleep and your quality of sleep and they’re basically measuring your movement. So the more you move throughout the night the less restful sleep you’re getting. The longer you can stay in one position the better quality sleep you’re typically receiving. In another couple of years, that technology will be embedded in the product, on a permanent basis. We envision it monitoring temperature, body movement.
Q What hasn’t changed about mattresses since 1969, when Mancini’s was founded?
A The sizes are basically still the same. They’re still for the most part U.S. made, which is good. There’s strong manufacturing right here in California for most of the brands. It’s still predominantly a product that has some sort of coil unit that gives pushback. Mattresses are no longer two sided: you don’t flip your mattress top to bottom anymore; you could create a better-feeling mattress that lasted longer by keeping the support system on the bottom and the comfort layers on top.
Q What have been the biggest changes in the business of selling mattresses over the past decade?
A There’s been a lot of consolidation of retailers. Sleep Train, for example, was bought by a company called Mattress Firm, which is now owned by a South African retail conglomerate that owns and operates approximately 3,800 stores across the U.S. We’re one of the few remaining independent strong operators in the United States that offers all brands of bedding.
Q Online shopping has hurt brick-and-mortar stores in many product areas, but buying a mattress online seems a trickier prospect than going in and seeing them and lying on them — is the mattress business somewhat protected from the changes wrought by e-commerce?
A It’s proven to be that way so far. There are some bed-in-a-box companies out there. But it’s more the entry-level mattress that comes rolled up in small box. Somebody looking for a good-quality mattress still needs to invest their time — properly shop for a mattress, try the different brands, see the differences that they each offer in terms of features and benefits, and help narrow your selection down to what you’ll benefit the most from.
Q How much more competition in the Bay Area does your company have in mattress sales now, compared to years past?
A Really there’s less. A year and a half ago there was Mattress Discounters — they’re no longer in the Bay Area. They were part of the roll-up of Sleep Train into Mattress Firm, so they converted them all to Sleep Trains and now they got converted to Mattress Firms. You remember furniture stores like Breuner’s, or Levitz, the Emporium? They all sold beds, and those retailers are all gone. So the channel’s narrowed.
Q What’s the biggest mistake people make when buying a mattress?
A Rushing through the process. Maybe not making their best choice their first choice. Some people want to come into a store and get the process over and done with in 15 minutes and it really takes a good 30 minutes to get properly fitted into the right mattress and leave yourself enough time to spend time on the different models.
Q What mattress do you sleep on?
A I am currently sleeping on an Aireloom high-end mattress which is California- designed and California-built. It’s a great mattress — been on it for a few years now. They just spare no expense on what they put in the mattress, from the technology of coil to memory foams. Their mattresses weigh almost twice as much as their competitors’ — there’s just a lot in it.
Q How many hours a night do you sleep?
My goal is eight but I sometimes end up closer to seven. It’s the quality of sleep that’s just as, if not more, important than the number of hours. You go to a bad motel, sleep on a bad mattress, you can lay there for 10 hours but get hardly any rest at all.