Rhonda and Carl Thomas have been making their
Nu-Rest line of mattresses in tiny Laclede for 30 years.
A small sign over
the door identifies the business as Nu-Rest Bedding. Large hand-painted
letters on a picture frame window declare simply “Mattress.” If
not for the faint glow of fluorescent lights from inside and the “Yes
we’re OPEN” sign on the door, it would be easy to mistake
the business for yet another abandoned storefront in tiny Laclede.
“People will drive by and they’ll look at my old buildings.
They think there can’t be much in there,” says Carl Thomas,
who has made mattresses in north Missouri for 30 years. “They
stop, they come in and that’s when they get surprised.”
and his wife, Rhonda, make up to 10 mattress sets each day in their
small facility two blocks south of the Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood
Home State Historic Site. No other stores carry his brand and he
rarely advertises, but Carl has developed a loyal clientele, both
locally and throughout the United States. His customers are won over
insider look into the bedding industry and his demonstration of high
quality at competitive prices.
and Rhonda talk mattresses with customers Carolyn
and Wes Peterson of Hamilton. The couple was considering the
purchase of a modern foam mattress before shopping at Nu-Rest
Bedding. They ordered a mattress from Carl instead.
fancy — just an old storefront, stuffed
full from front to back with two rows of mattress sets, most still wrapped
in plastic bags. A few simple headboards hang overhead or adorn
the beds. There is no other furniture, save an old metal desk and
chair in the corner.
doesn’t want to
pay for a fancy showroom,” Carl
says. “That’s why you see us in an old building here.”
says he strives to provide the highest quality bedding he can and sell
it at an affordable price. “We build a mattress that’s quality
but yet we hold the price down. That’s kind of unheard of,” he
To prove his point,
nearly every customer who enters Nu-Rest Bedding receives an education
in mattresses. Once casual greetings are out of the way, the lesson
begins. The Farmers’ Electric Cooperative member
explains that nearly every bedding manufacturer in the United States
buys its components from the same supplier. Mattresses differ only
in design, quality of construction and the grade of material used,
as many as 10 sets of mattresses each day on a 1950s sewing machine
and table built for double mattresses. Today's larger mattresses
simply hang over the edge as he works.
The lesson continues
as Carl guides shoppers into his workshop where he shows them mattresses
being assembled virtually the same way they were built when Carl
and Rhonda first bought a partnership in the company in 1975.
want our customers to come in and actually see what we’re
says. “Once they see what’s inside of a mattress, it’s
a selling point.”
Carl says that
most mattress foundations today are built with just five wooden slats.
He uses 10 on his box springs. His springs are stout 13 gauge steel.
Well-known brands often use lighter, 15 guage. Carl still individually
installs ventilator holes and reinforced grab handles onto the sides
of mattresses. He even writes mattress specifications by hand onto
the federally mandated labels. And yes, customers may remove the
label without penalty of law.
Back in the showroom,
Carl sits on the edge of a bed and bounces a bit. “Watch
the bottom piece,” he says, referring to the traditional
box spring foundation that is part of every mattress set Nu-Rest
sells. “It probably flexes more
than the mattress. That’s your shock absorber.”
The federally mandated label attached to every mattress is filled
in by hand at Nu-Rest bedding.
who took over the business when his partners, Glenn and Francis
Peer, retired in 1985, explains that major manufacturers
have steered customers away from traditional box spring foundations
in recent years.
years ago they all used to tell you the box spring is the backbone
of your set. Now they’re trying to go
to base units,” he says. “That
allows them to use lighter gauge springs in the mattresses,
which cuts their cost down. Also, base units don’t require the
labor and assembly and the man-hours that a box spring does.”
rare opportunity to learn straightforward facts about bedding is not
lost on customers. “Every mattress salesman has a story,” says
Carolyn Peterson, an antiques dealer from the Hamilton area who visited
shop after an exhaustive search for a new mattress in
find somebody to tell you everything you want to hear. But Carl is
the only one who’s been able to back
up what he has to say.”
a cover onto a box spring foundation. Unlike many manufacturers
Carl continues to promote box springs. Selling "base units" instead
of box springs allows the big brands to save cost, he says.
husband, Wes, agrees. “I
actually learned something about what I was buying instead of buying
something in the dark.”
Prior to shopping
in Laclede, the Petersons were convinced they would buy a modern
foam mattress. The fact that Carl’s mattresses cost a third
as much is a plus, they say, but not the overriding consideration. “I’m
cost conscious but I like to buy quality stuff.
I can see by the way they’re
building these it’s quality,” Wes says. “We’re
able to feel comfortable that we’re spending
money wisely on a very good product.”
Carl’s mattresses are surprisingly affordable.
His least expensive twin-size set sells for $199.
A top-of-the-line king set retails for $849,
delivered within a 50-mile radius. Most standard
sizes are kept in stock. Special orders are generally
filled within a couple of weeks.
bedding, Carl custom-builds mattresses to fit
3/4-size antique beds, recreational vehicles
and the sleeping compartments of 18-wheelers.
He’s even made round beds. “If you lay on it and sleep on it, we
can build it,” Rhonda says.
leans onto a mattress top as he works his sewing machine around
the bedding. He says his 50-year-old sewing machine produces
a lock stitch, which won't pull out like the chain stitch commonly
mattress makers like Nu-Rest Bedding are
uncommon but fill an important niche, says Eric Rhea,
central division president of Leggett & Platt.
The company, headquartered in Carthage, supplies
mattress components to many of the best-known
names in bedding as well as small shops like
always be the need for the smaller guy who takes care of the needs
of rural customers,” Rhea says. “Customers know they’re
getting a quality mattress from someone
they probably know. They feel comfortable that there’s not
going to be any issues with that product.”
It’s a feeling
that goes both ways. Carl says he knows that doing business in
north Missouri, he’s never far from his customers. “I
want to meet somebody in the grocery
store who’s got my bed and is dissatisfied,” he
A sign on the wall
of Nu-Rest Bedding probably sums up Carl’s philosophy
best. “We do good work and
it speaks for itself. Poor work
is not worth speaking for.”
kind of the way I’ve done
things ever since I’ve
been in the business,” Carl
says. “If you’re
going to build it, build it right.”
For more information, visit Nu-Rest Bedding Company at 903 Pershing
Drive in Laclede or call (660) 963-2555.