VOL 7 NO 2
Innovation & Innovation:
Liform's Fireman & Flam Deliver
Bob's futon frames - That Was Then
I drove down to Cape Cod for the Second Annual Futon association Expo. It was late April, 1986. Michael and Randy Young of New Moon had found a delightful spot for the event on Route 6A. The place, the Ocean Edge Resort, was the recently remodeled Nickerson Estate. As I set up my display the fellow next to me was setting up a frame the likes of which I'd never seen before. The futon frame folded only once along the length of the futon mattress. It looked like a sofa-bed.
The fellow was Bob Fireman and the futon frame was the first bi-fold futon frame I had ever seen. He called it the SII. I asked him why he called it the sigh and he told me a story about trying to buy some short pieces of lumber at an auction, and about these two guys from Tennessee who were furniture manufacturers, and how they had gotten together and built this great futon frame. As the years have gone by Bob Fireman has continued to create his vision of how the futon world should be. With From The Source he brought us the hugely successful futon frames called Bo Ling, VITA, RoJo (named after two managers of a Nyack, NY plant) and the SII, the best of the first dual purpose classics. Some of the early futon frames had pegs to hold the back rest in place while many of his later futon frame designs used glides. The glides are still used in one form or another on most of the convertible futon frames today. Fireman's kicker design was the first of its kind to be patented in the United States.
The following year (1986), in San Francisco, Bob told me the story of his many trips to South America to source factories for the production of the highly successful A-Frame, a knock-off of the Daphne award winning Brouwer Futon Bed. Many would fault Fireman for his ingenuity and boldness but many would also agree that his entrepreneurial spirit, perseverance and his many design innovations make him one of the true pioneers of the futon industry.
Several years later, once again in San Francisco, Fireman and I had a delightful breakfast in Sausalito at the Lighthouse Café. He told me about his recent departure from From The Source. He was pretty fed up with the situation and was contemplating moving on to something else. Being an encourager at heart I told him he was crazy. I said, "You know everyone in the futon business. You know how to do this. Don't give up your years of experience in an industry still in the early stages of maturity."
The following spring Bob was at High Point, showing at Market Square with the earliest Liforms' futon frame creations. He was enthusiastic about his life and about his futon frames. Today his company is a permanent fixture at High Point, in the C&D building on the seventh floor. And on every street corner there are members of the Liforms Youth Brigade handing out free tickets to the greatest futon show on earth.
Bob's futon frames - This Is Now
About a year ago Bob hooked up with Michael Flam and together they have centralized their distribution of futon frames in the Atlanta area.
Michael Flam brings the experience and credibility of a sixty-seven year old, family run business to the table in the Liforms equation.
Flam's Comfort Rest Sleep Products produces conventional bedding products for both the retail and contract trades out of a 67,000 square foot plant attached to another 62,000 square feet of warehouse and distribution space. Flam's claim to fame is a long standing (since 1983) relationship with the Crown Plaza hotel chain, the upscale segment of Holiday Inn Worldwide. Comfort Rest also manufactures private label conventional mattresses and bedding products for several large, multi-unit retailers. Flam sees these retailers as the basis of the future growth of the futon furniture industry.
"We are used to dealing with the W.S. Badcocks and Haverty's type retailers; more traditional, multi-unit operations. These stores will carry a good, better, best line-up and they're looking for a full service supplier they can depend on. We are that supplier," said Flam.
Fireman, on the other hand, deals with the specialty futon stores. This futon store carries products from several suppliers and Liforms wants to be on that list too.