Tenant's Success Lures Designer to Try Futons

Rosemarie Belden emigrated from Germany four decades ago as a trained research technician in veterinary medicine. After settling in Los Angeles in 1976, she began manufacturing and distributing fabrics for home and hotel decoration. But she grew tired of the complications in overseeing a nationwide system of showrooms and independent distributors. Additionally, her 20,000-square-foot facility was too large for her operation, so she leased out space to a futon seller. When she noticed how popular the items were, she folded her fabrics business and founded Futon Factory L.A. Inc. in 1984.

"If you asked me in those days what a futon was, I would have had no clue. But in America you can become the owner of a business without a proper training in that industry. (Futons) are a low-cost way for people with not a lot of space to create a living room during the day and turn it into a bedroom at night. A lot of people also like to sleep on a futon because of the way it is constructed. We get a lot of customers who were sent by their chiropractors who said (futons) are good for your back.

"We make 90 percent of the mattresses in house and the frames we buy from suppliers. And we manufacture and sell a lot of beanbag chairs. We also carry lamps and other medium-size accessories like magazine racks, coat racks, TV tables and folding oriental screens.

"But 80 percent of our sales are futons, which cost $139 for a double-size futon and metal frame to $750 for a top quality oak frame and top quality mattress. People can mix and match. You can choose any type of frame on the floor we have 30 types and (one of) 40 types of mattress in different sizes and thickness. We also do custom work for boats.

"We sell 250 (futon mattresses) a month either with or without a frame. Sales average close to $50,000 a month. But it definitely is seasonal. Over the years there has always been a drop off of 5 percent in the winter and it climbs up 5 percent in the summer. It's not an item that people give to each other for Christmas. In the summer, school is out and the weather is nicer. People like to go shopping in a store off the street we're not in a mall.

"There are basically three salesmen and three manufacturers and I work in the store as well. It's small and that's the way we want to keep it."

David Greenberg

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