THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
by Dave Garretson
Assorted Musings, Bits & Pieces
My mind is cluttered and full of cobwebs, like a dusty old attic. Every once in a while, I find that I need to clear out some of the old junk from up there, to make room for newer junk. After emptying out my head recently (which didn’t take long, believe me) here are some of the musings I found strewn on the floor.
Do you remember White Sonner? He and his wife Paula used to sell futons to futon stores, and he also wrote a Futon Life column, years ago. I remember one of Paula’s and White’s visits to my store in the early 1990’s. We were discussing cheap products and lowball pricing.
“Once you start playing the price game, there is no bottom to the bottom,” said White.
He was so right. At the time, we were discussing cheap futon frames that were wholesaling for under two hundred dollars. Now, of course, almost all of them are under two hundred, and it is many years later. Of course, we’re providing better values to consumers now. Meanwhile, the bottom has moved lower. I never stop being amazed at the horrible trash some merchants are selling to the public, and at ever-lower prices. As White said, there is no bottom to the bottom.
Futon Expo advice: When you’re ready to go out eating and shopping in Philadelphia, I can recommend two fun neighborhoods: South Street or Manayunk.
Speaking of old time futoneers, it now looks as if 2003 was a shakeout year for some of the old futon stores. If I’m not mistaken, we said farewell to more independent futon stores last year than at any other time. Luckily, many of you seem to be healthy and nimble, and I’m sure that most futon stores will continue to do just fine.
However, I can’t help but think of the Fifteen Year Curse. This is the hex that I’m sure was put on the futon business by waterbed people. I first met waterbed folks when they began showing up at our futon expos, and most of them told me the same thing.
“This futon thing,” they’d say thoughtfully, “It reminds me of waterbeds fifteen years ago.”
Then they’d describe to me how red-hot waterbeds were in the beginning, how great the waterbed business used to be, and then, sadly, how it all went into decline. It all had begun fifteen years earlier, and now they were looking for new ideas, such as futons, to keep their stores going.
Through the years, as the futon business matured, I continued to hear this fifteen year thing from the waterbedders. By the way, the surviving retailers in that industry, most of whom eventually substituted the word “bedroom” for “waterbed” in their store names, are thriving and doing very well these days.
However, here’s food for thought. Guess how long it’s been since the big waterbed collapse, when I started meeting these people and hearing them tell me about how this futon business is just like waterbeds fifteen years ago? Well, ah, it’s been about fifteen years.
More Futon Expo advice: Want to visit a futon store in Philadelphia? Too bad! There aren’t any. Philadelphia is the largest US city without a futon specialty store.
Common misperception of waterbeds: A sloshy bed like the one I had years ago, when I also owned black light posters and a lava lamp. I got rid of it after the thing sprung a leak. People tell me that they’re better now, but I’m skeptical.
Common misperception of futons: A black metal sofa sold at warehouse clubs and discount stores for $129. It must be for college students, because anybody else would be crazy to want one. People tell me that there are better ones, but I’m skeptical.
One last piece of Futon Expo advice: If I only had time for one tourist stop, I’d go to Independence Hall, which is within walking distance. It’s awesome to stand in the plain small room and contemplate everything that started there in 1776.
My column last time, a poem about a woman named Grace who accidentally launched the futon business, prompted several questions. Did I actually know Grace? Who was she? Here is the answer, this time as a limerick.
There once was a woman named Grace
Who started the whole futon craze
That wasn’t her real name
I made up a fake dame
In order to rhyme the word “space.”