NORTH AUGUSTA — Rest Master Bedding, a local mattress manufacturer that began business in 1982, closed its doors Friday.
Recent trends have been rough on the business, according to owner Emerson Thompson, whose base of operations has been in the Sweetwater area of Edgefield County. Manufacturing ceased in February, and the outlet store, near Sweetwater Road, was swamped with customers seeking deep-discount deals Friday morning, Thompson said.
A sign on the office door later Friday morning stated, "We are completely sold out!" Would-be customers were still driving to the facility in search of mattress bargains.
"We just can't get raw materials to make mattresses, and the ones that are about to open ... have told us there have been some pretty significant price increases," Thompson said. "We were already having trouble competing with the foreign stuff that comes in — people buying stuff online. They don't have to have a storefront, and they don't have to pay all that, and it's tough to compete.
"The market has just changed so much through the years, and I guess we haven't been smart enough to change with it ... I made a lot of money in the mattress business, and I put a lot back in in the last eight or nine years, and just don't have any more to put back in."
Rest Master's Sweetwater property included the manufacturing facility as well as an outlet store. Another outlet store also did business in Martinez, Georgia, on the Bobby Jones Expressway. It was closed in late March, due to the pandemic.
Thompson said the business, at its peak, had more than 100 people working in the factory. "We haven't been at our peak in a number of years."
Rest Master began in 1982 in Augusta, and the center of operations moved to North Augusta in the late 1990s, Thompson said.
"The lockdown has been tough. There's nothing we can do about it, and a lot of our raw materials come out of North Carolina, and they're still shut down."
The Sweetwater facility, leading into the coronavirus shutdown, had about 20 employees, and they were laid off. "We had some people that were with us over 30 years, and just had to look them in the eye and tell them, 'I'm sorry,' and they just won't be coming back."
Thompson said his family owns (and has to maintain) the Sweetwater facility and will be looking to use it. "We will have a grand opening of some kind some time," he said with a laugh.
The most recent economic downturn "put a lot of our ... wholesale customers out of business," he said. "We were in the wholesale mattress business for 30-some-odd years."