3/27/19–For years I have been on a quest for the perfect pillow.
That’s one of those life essentials you didn’t know you needed until you become an adult. As a kid, you could fall asleep on the floor on top of a pile of coats, with a wadded up sweatshirt under your head.
When it came time to buy your first pillow, you grabbed the cheapest one from the bin at the discount store. Maybe. Many a time a rolled-up pair of blue jeans served the purpose, with the bonus of keeping your wallet away from roommates.
But then we discover the seductive world of “nocturnal cranial support systems.” I remember the first time saw the array of pillows on the shelves at a local chiropractic office. There were big ones, little ones, pillows filled with rice hulls and down, pillows wrapped in bamboo, and pillows cut from foam in creative curves. Just as we never knew you had to buy water in a bottle, who knew choosing a pillow required a background in engineering?
So my hunting instincts were triggered when I spotted “Your Bed Pillow” on the side of a van parked outside Linens ‘N More on Main Street in Fredericksburg.
I went inside to learn if it could truly be mine.
After asking about my sleep preferences, the staff brought out a pillow in each of three sizes and six degrees of firmness, and encouraged me to lie on a bed and try them. Amazingly, they even offered a pillow from a competitor–who is one of the heaviest nationwide advertisers at this time–to compare. They insist you try before you buy.
After describing the features of Your Bed Pillow, they mentioned it was created here. They invited me back to meet the inventor and store owner, Jim Richardson.
Richardson is a “pillow-vangelist.”
Richardson’s affair with pillows began when he was a 22-year-old working for a retail operation in San Antonio. His first job was buying bed pillows for all their stores in Texas. It was an awakening.
“I began to realize my job was connecting people who were coming in looking for a pillow; trying to match pillows with the way they sleep,” he said. “At market, I tried to find pillows that matched different sleeping styles.”
That experience came back to him after he retired and moved to Fredericksburg and opened his shop. One day he heard a commercial where a pitchman said he had tried every pillow out there, and couldn’t find one that fits the way he sleeps, so he invented one.
It got Richardson to thinking.
“He’s going to sell a lot of pillows, but a lot of people are not going to like it. He only makes one pillow.”
So about five years ago, Richardson started designing his own line of pillows, featuring six densities from extra soft to 2extra firm, in standard, queen, and king sizes.
He began selling it out of his store, and is having “amazing” response. He currently sells “thousands” solely through this one retail outlet.
“I haven’t promoted this pillow outside of Fredericksburg,” he said. “Most of my pillow orders are from people who have already bought them.”
His philosophy is not what you might expect. He would rather sell half as many pillows to people who love them, than sell twice as many pillows to people who hate them.
“It is not our goal to sell as many as we can sell,” he explained. “We can do that, but I don’t want to do that. I want people to grab one and sleep on it. I don’t want them to put it in a closet; I want them to use these pillows.”
He means it.
“I never say I guarantee this will be the most comfortable pillow you’ve ever slept on. Even 10% are not going to like any pillow because of the way they sleep. I want people to take something home and use it.”
That philosophy was evident when I visited the store.
“If you walk into any box store and ask them about pillows, nobody has any idea what pillow goes with each person,” he said. “The words ‘how do you sleep?’ never come out of their mouths.”
Richardson will tell you all the specs that make his “the ultimate pillow”– breathable micro down fiber, 375-thread count, proprietary sizing–but he considers many competitors’ claims “hocus pocus.”
“Most companies don’t care a flip about the customer, only how many they sell. They are missing that connection between the customer and the pillow. That’s what makes us different. The focus is not on the pillow; we want people to get the pillow they can actually sleep on. I’m not saying this pillow will fix your problem, but chances are it’s going to help. It already has helped a lot of people.”
Including tourists who didn’t know they needed a new pillow.
“I tell people to take it back to your hotel, and sleep on it,” he said. “If it doesn’t fit, bring it back and we’ll exchange it. We want people to use them.”
So far, they are.
“I know this is going to be huge,” Richardson said. “You don’t sell thousands of pillows out of one little store in Fredericksburg without having a quality pillow. That is unheard of.”