Capital Mattress and Waterbed, a staple in local business and advertising, is closing its doors after 40 years.
The mattress warehouse, which opened in 1974 as a father-son venture, will be closing for good in this month. Although reluctant to retire at 58 years old, owner Steve Califano said that, after two years of decision-making, he finally had to pull the plug due to competition from chain stores.
“It was about a two-year agonizing decision. And then when I had to pull the trigger, it was about six months ago. That was the window when I knew I had to do it. Just start to put things into action as far as the underlying things you had to do. It’s very difficult to take apart a 40-year business,” said Califano.
Over the last few years, more and more chain stores specializing in mattress sales have set up shop in the Capital Region, like Sleepy’s and Metro Mattress, which have three locations each around the area. The last three years have seen department stores getting back into mattress sales as well.
“Walmart will have a mattress department in the next 12 to 24 months,” Califano said. “There’s talk of other chains coming to the market in the next two years. The Albany market is already over saturated.”
Many Capital District natives know Califano’s iconic jingle from television and radio commercials. His business, which opened at the height of waterbed popularity in 1974, began as one store in the late Mohawk Mall. From there, the then Capital District Waterbed moved to two other locations before finding the storefront at 775 New Loudon Road in Latham in 1984. It became one location and expanded to major brand mattresses.
For years, Capital Mattress had been the only business in the area specializing in mattress sales. Customers often saw Califano out on the floor, helping people find the right fit. Much of his customer base, he said, was from repeat customers and referrals.
“That’s the sad part I’m seeing right now. The customers come in and say, ‘We’re sad to see you go. We bought all of our beds, our kids bought their beds.’ And that’s great. It’s great and I love that, but it’s not enough. We still need that new consumer to stay profitable enough to do it,” he said.
Unlike bigger chain stores, independent businesses no longer have the money to spend on marketing. Businesses like Fucillo and Huck Finn’s, Califano said, buy marketing space, making the price for advertising go up. With the finite airtime on TV and radio, he said that most small businesses can’t afford to spend the money on the commercials to bring in new customers.
“That, in a nutshell, was the disintegration of the little guy in the market, and I’m not unique. Obviously you see more and more,” said Califano.
Currently, Capital Mattress has five employees, including a manager who has been with Califano for 30 years. The store is set to close in the first few weeks of March after storewide sales end.
The store itself has a good fate, though, Califano said. The value of the property has gone up with a super Walmart set to open in spring across the street and more stores to go in once the plaza has finished. The New Loudon Road storefront has become prime real estate. Califano said that he will most likely keep the property and rent it, although the possibility to sell was not off the table.
As for himself, Califano said that he wasn’t quite ready to retire, but more than likely, he would not be doing anything in the retail business.
“Being as long as I have been in it, I wasn’t ready to get out. I’m only 58. I can’t get social security until I’m 65, but I was kind of forced out quicker than I wanted to go,” he said. “But I’m a busy guy. I’ve got to do something.”