Originally from Broad Brook, CT, Gary & Judy Lemay, owners of BEDTOPS Mattress Clearance Center, relocated to Flagler County in 2015 to pursue a new business opportunity. At the time, Gary had an IT consulting business and Judy had a music business, that originally started as a signing telegram business. Judy’s parents retired in Palm Coast, so both Gary and Judy were familiar with the area. Their goal was to eventually make the move themselves, but neither one of them thought it would be a business that brought them to the Sunshine State.
"We had a friend, Jimmy, that had a mattress business in East Windsor, CT, where we were living at the time," Gary said. "The more we learned about his business model, the more we loved it. You're selling wholesale to the public instead of retail. You're giving people an opportunity to purchase a bed they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. We went out to dinner one night and Jimmy told us that BoxDrop, the wholesale provider we currently buy our mattress through, was going to open territories in Florida. After about a year and a half of homework and learning more about the operation, we decided to pull the trigger."
As part of their homework, Gary and Judy made four trips to Flagler County. They looked at houses to live in and space for their new business. It took a while, but eventually, everything started to click and they found what they were looking for. That's when they made plans to officially move. They cashed in their 401(k), signed a lease, purchased inventory and opened the doors to BEDTOPS Mattress Clearance Center in February of 2016.
"I'm not going to lie, we were terrified," Judy said. "Fortunately, through advertising, we were able to set up appointments that first week. We also opened during tax season, a time we now know is notorious for people buying mattresses. Our biggest ongoing challenge is managing our inventory. There are minimum buys which, in some cases, require you to have to guess on what is going to sell. Nevertheless, we have so much support from BoxDrop. They're an amazing group to work with."
Looking ahead, Gary and Judy are focused on continuing to provide exceptional customer service to those clients visiting their Palm Coast location and on getting their newest location, in Ormond Beach, up and running. They're getting the word out through social media and by getting involved in the community. According to Gary, a third location, possibly in Port Orange, is not out of the question.
Gary offer's up some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "Do your homework," he said. "Also, take advantage of local resources. We worked with Michael Oppenheim, with the Palm Coast Business Assistance Center. He was fantastic. He helped us with spreadsheets, a business plan, finding our building and even encouraged us to visit new communities to hand out flyers. In terms of startup and working capital, double how much you think you're going to need. It's scary to run out of money. Lastly, try to have a backup plan. If at all possible, keep your day job while you build out your business. I was able to help 2 clients remotely when we first moved to Palm Coast. I kept my IT business as a contingency fall back plan. Now, the sky’s the limit!"