December 2011

The Mattress King Sleeps Here - Family business runs on a good night’s sleep

Author: Debbie Szpanka | Photographer: John Brackett

Bet you didn’t know that the mattress king sleeps here. Living on Hilton Head Island, Gary Fazio brings nearly 40 years of bedding industry know-how to the Lowcountry. Known among industry leaders as one of the most influential people in the bedding business, Fazio has spent his life learning how you can rest more peacefully.

Fazio is currently CEO of Simmons, based in Atlanta, after major stints at Sealy and Mattress Firm. Lucky for you, his son Adam Fazio owns the local Mattress Firm store in Bluffton and can pass on their collective knowledge to you as a benefit of living in the same town as the royal family of mattresses.

Adam instinctively knows he must pass on his wealth of knowledge to grow his empire. His employees are degreed professionals who work at Mattress Firm as a career, not just a job, he said. This level of expertise makes mattress buying an educational experience for the customers, not just an item to cross off their to-do list.

“All of our managers go to Houston, Texas, where Mattress Firm and its Sleep School are headquartered. Under the guidance of Dr. Michael Breus, known as ‘The Sleep Doctor,’ each employee learns what makes a mattress and what makes sleep restorative,” Adam said. “Even our delivery guys have degrees and mattress training. I am serious about this business, and everyone who represents my stores must be informed about the latest business trends and information.”

Mattress Firm employees are sleep therapists: you tell them intimate details of your life in order to improve the quality of your sleep and life.

“Sleep is the foundation of life. Without proper rest, we don’t have the energy to live life at our best levels,” Adam explained. “When customers come into the store, we don’t ask them what mattress they want to see. We ask them what their sleeping patterns are, if they have any physical issues, and how their sleep behaviors help or hinder the sleep of their partner, and then we show them the mattress which may best fit their needs.”

Adam didn’t start his career following the pillow imprints of his father. He owned a computer business and specialized in Web application and development for government agencies. He sold the company to a Washington, D.C.-based federal contractor and then moved to the Lowcountry to open his first Mattress Firm store.
Just like the computer biz, Adam knows that technology and attention to details create industry leaders. He found the best location in Bluffton, as the store firmly faces Highway 278. “Neil,” a life-size astronaut is usually in front of the store. The caricature symbolizes the discovery of the Tempur-Pedic mattress while NASA was experimenting with materials to better cushion and support astronauts during lift-off.

While Gary continues to manage the industry on an international level, Adam is growing the family dynasty on a local level. Adam plans to expand his Hilton Head Island- Savannah franchise within the next six to nine months. The first expansion is to open a Super Center in front of Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah. The next opening is scheduled in Pooler, Georgia, on Pooler Parkway near the Savannah airport. Proud that Mattress Firm is the only specialized sleep store with sleep shops in all four time zones, Adam plans to own stores from south of Charleston to north of Jacksonville, Florida. And when you meet him, you may get the impression he lives, eats and…well, sleeps this mission.

“Once I found the Bluffton location during Thanksgiving of 2007, I gutted the building and rebuilt it in four weeks,” Adam said. “I opened for business in 2008 when the economy was in recession and the bedding industry numbers had sunk to 2002 levels. However, I have a low-price guarantee, hired professional people, offer more than 500 models, display more than 60 of them and now our momentum is revving up by opening more stores in Georgia and South Carolina.”

Adam attributes his success to customer service such as next-day service, shipping mattresses to people’s homes in other states, offering better warranties and knowing how a mattress can better a person’s life. “You can’t sell a multi-thousand dollar Tempur-Pedic bed by putting a sign on it,” he said. “You have to know the science behind restful sleep.” He wants the consumer’s needs, not what’s in stock or what may be a quick sale, to dictate the bed. “You keep the customer’s needs first and everyone wins,” Adam said.

According to Adam, the forthcoming Savannah Super Center will have more mattresses on display than any other Mattress Firm store in the country. It will also feature a “Tempur-Pedic Sleep Experience Center,” a state-of-the-art, computerized sleep simulator that customers can experience as part of discovering what mattress best fits their needs.

Tempur-Pedic, known as the highest echelon of mattresses, has selected Adam’s new store to be one of the first in the United States to offer this sleep simulator. The Bluffton Mattress Firm store already has a proven track record since it is the only retailer in South Carolina to display all of Tempur-Pedic models.

Being the son of the mattress king, Adam has grown up listening to his father’s management philosophies. One of his dad’s strongest tenets is never to be satisfied and always to strive for the next goal. His dad said many times that success is not an accident.

In addition to his family taking note, Gary’s leadership has been recognized by national groups. In July 2011, the Anti-Defamation League honored Gary as one of the home furnishings executives who have created a corporate culture which “benefited the lives of others and advanced the goals central to the mission of the Anti-Defamation League.” (The civil rights and human relations agency, which fights all forms of bigotry, also honored renowned model and furniture designer Kathy Ireland.)

“The last four years of being in the business has taught me a greater appreciation of what my dad created. I am proud of his vision and that he saw a gap between manufacturing and retail and has filled that gap to create a better experience for the customer,” Adam said.

While his employees aren’t related by bloodline, Adam said they are a part of his plan and bond with him through shared experiences and goals. He calls his Bluffton store manager, Charles Taylor, “son.” Two other employees, Kimberly Morris and Rachelle Hobus are roommates. And Adam’s colleague from his computer days, Rob Moul, will assist in expanding the Mattress Firm franchise to other states.

Adam learned much from his dad and continues to pass it on. “We are family here,” he said.

For more information on your next mattress, call 843-837-FIRM!

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