MILLBURN, N.J. – Bedding industry veteran Bryan Umiker is returning to his retail roots with the opening of The Ethical Mattress Co., a sleep specialty retail operation he has founded. The store opened this week.
Umiker, founder and CEO of the retail operation, cut his teeth in the sleep industry with retailers like Nebraska Furniture Mart, Bloomingdale’s, Portico and Bed Bath & Beyond. At each retailer he took on increasing responsibilities. When he left Bloomingdale’s, he joined sheet producer Sheex for a short stint before joining Casper as its vice president of wholesale to roll out the brand into retail stores.
Most recently, he led business development and marketing, as well as retailer support and supply chain management for King Koil’s Smartlife.
“I’m coming back to my roots,” Umiker said. “I spent 20 years in retail. I had great experiences working on the manufacturing side, but at the end of the day, I am a retailer.”
Umiker said during the past year he spent time visiting and working with retailers and during those visits “I felt so alive and energized. This year being out in the field working with retailers really spoke to me. This is where I belong; this is what I should be doing.”
Hence, The Ethical Mattress retail store, located in the area where he makes his home and is raising his family, was born. Umiker registered the company name in 2018 during his last week with Bloomingdale’s.
The ethos of the store is to provide consumers with a selection of more natural sleep products at accessible prices. Located on Millburn Avenue, which Umiker describes as an upscale downtown shopping area that pulls consumers in from surrounding towns.
Umiker has five core principles for his new company: Sell exceptionally well-made mattresses, everything is made from natural materials, never take used mattresses to landfills, offer everyday low pricing, and offer customers a relaxed and low-pressure sales environment while paying extra attention to the delivery process as part of the overall consumer experience.
Building on those principles, The Ethical Mattress merchandising mix is built around mattresses built in New Jersey, including Shifman Mattresses and Natural Dreams from Bedding Industries of America. Bed frames are sourced from Knickerbocker, another New Jersey-based company. A lineup of Skyline upholstered headboards help give the store a cozy, welcoming view, and the custom line is available in vegetable-dyed linens.
The store features soothing blues and calming grays, along with a nine-foot-high living moss wall, images of natural environments, including a forest canopy, cotton fields and a lightbox showcasing the moon setting rising over the ocean. In addition to the moss, the store has a number of green plants to help keep the air healthy.
“I am having the time of my life,” he said a few weeks ahead of the opening and added that both his father and grandfather were small business owners and being around their entrepreneurial mindset helped set the stage for the launch of The Ethical Mattress.
While the 2,200-square-foot store just opened and Umiker is planning a grand opening event for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, strategies are already in place for additional stores. Umiker said he’s looking forward to opening a second store by the end of 2023 and a third in 2024. Both, he said, will be within 15 to 20 miles of the flagship store.
“I want this to be the little sleep shop around the corner,” he said. “I live in this area and am a part of this community. We have great downtown shopping, and I'm excited to bring this store to my neighbors.”