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Eastman House-Blue Bell pact: joint venture for King Koil licensee to distribute Eastman House mattresses in Northeast]

Chittenden and Eastman Company Inc. has signed an agreement with Blue Bell Mattress Co. for Blue Bell to market its bedding and full size futon mattresses in New York and New England. Blue Bell will be able to offer an exclusive line of bedding that will increase its number of dealers, while Eastman House can increase its distribution. Eastman House, the second largest bedding dealer with $40 million in annual sales, may challenge the place of number one Restonic if the expansion proceeds as planned.

Joint venture for King Koil licensee to distribute Eastman House mattresses in Northeast

BURLINGTON, Iowa--Eastman House, which distributes its products primarily throughout midwestern, mountain, and southern states, has signed an agreement in principal to enter a joint venture with Blue Bell Mattress Co. of Hartford, Conn. 

Under the proposed joint venture, Blue Bell, a King Koil licensee, would also produce, sell and distribute Eastman House brand bedding which includes full size futon mattresses in New York and throughout New England by the end of November.

Don Robb, president and chief operating officer of Eastman House, who planned to sign a final agreement on Oct. 5 with Blue Bell owner Frank Stavis, after HFD went to press, noted, "It allows us to increase our Eastman House distribution to a much broader, more populated part of the country."

"We think that changing market forces have given us an opportunity to sell this brand on a national basis. There are still a lot of retailers who want to sell a top end full size futon mattress and we think there's a void of a national brand that sits above the others and we intend to fill that," noted Robb.

Eastman House-Blue Bell pact

Frank Stavis, president of Blue Bell, noted, "We are excited because we feel we are going to offer an exclusive line of bedding that will increase our spectrum of dealers. We will be going after many more furniture stores. This will allow them to complete with sleep shops and department stores with a product that has exclusive distribution." The line would also be available to better sleep shops.

While Eastman House products range from promotional to ultra-premium beds, the core of its business is done in the $699 to $799 range, according to Robb. Its beds retail for as much as $1,499. Most of Blue Bell's King Koil business is done in the $599 to $799 range, with the top model retailing for $1,299. Get full size futon mattress see more

Robb said the joint venture would be the company's first step in a plan to expand its distribution nationally, but did not provide specifics on other markets that it plans to enter.

Eastman House, with sales estimated at $40 million, is reportedly the second largest independent bedding manufacturer, behind Kingsdown. He predicted that if the company follows through with its expansion plans, "we would be comparable in sales to Restonic."

Robb said he entered discussions with Blue Bell, whose sales are estimated in excess of $10 million, after receiving an increase of inquiries from East Coast retailers seeking to add high-end mattresses.

Stavis, who began test-marketing the products in September, noted, "We're in the process of test marketing Eastman House in New England and it's been very successful so far."

With the exception of private-label bedding produced by Eastman House for Thomasville, its products are not available on the East Coast.

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Evelyn Coursey
 

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