Business Spotlight: Rest easy at The Futon Shop in La Jolla

BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:

Suzanne Diamond is the founder, owner and CEO of The Futon Shop chain (11 outlets in California, including one in La Jolla that opened three years ago), but you could also call her the matriarch. That's how it all started 40 years ago.

"I was a young mother looking for natural bedding for my children," said Diamond, "and it did not exist. Everything was full of fire retardants. I was kind of a hippie and macrobiotic and was studying the Japanese way of life, and I thought I'd start making futons that were all natural. There was no law saying I couldn't make a futon for my kids. So I made a mattress and all my friends started wanting one."

So what began as a "little cottage business" in Los Angeles following Diamond's move from the East Coast became a mini-empire. "We sell over $7 million worth of futons a year," she said. "We make futons for people's boats. We make them for bay windows and custom window sills. Even for RVs."

The Futon Shop sells not only futons, but sofa beds, pillows, mattresses, platform beds, mattress pads and more, all of it non-toxic and chemical free. But let's get back to its futons.

"It's not traditional, not what you would think is a futon," explained Diamond. "People walk in our stores and go "Wow. These are futons?' It's a word that has been brutalized by bad merchandising and cheap products. Futons became very generic and everybody had this cheap, ugly uncomfortable futon as a college kid in the '80s. They were horrible looking and cheap. But a futon is a Japanese word that means 'bedding.' A traditional futon is really a mattress, and that's what we make.

"If you go to the store and sit on one of my mattresses you will understand why we're in business."

At least 20 percent of that business is e-commerce, Diamond said. Whether the customer buys in-person or online, she added, he or she will find attractively priced products.

"We make everything," she said. "Because we're a vertical retailer, we make it and sell it directly to the consumer. We can offer the lowest prices. I have dealers who sell my products for four times more than I do all over the country." The Futon Shop company, headquartered in San Francisco, is completely self-contained, with its own bankers and even its own truck drivers.

"We're quite a large organization for a small company," Diamond said. "I have employees who have been with me for 20, 30 and 40 years. We are a real family business and we love each other. And we're happy doing what we do."

The Futon Shop at 7470 Girard Ave. in La Jolla is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. (858) 729-1892. thefutonshop.com

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