It’s official: With the grand opening of the Fresh Pond area’s third mattress store last month, we are in the running to become the “mattress capital of the world.” Jump for joy, a Sleep Number store, one of the company’s 425 U.S. locations, has come to the newly constructed retail building near the Sozio rotary on Fresh Pond Parkway. (Old timers will remember the site as the former home of Fresh Pond Seafood.) Sleep Number’s arrival will shake up — or wake up– the competition, the twin Sleepy’s stores located a pillow’s throw away, one in the Whole Food’s shopping center and the other just across the parkway in the Trader’s Joe’s complex.
I know blanketing the block has proven an effective retail strategy for franchises like Starbucks, but, so far, there is only one Starbucks in the Fresh Pond area. So why do these bed fellows think the neighborhood can support three mattress stores? Do they think commuters stuck in traffic at the notoriously gridlocked parkway rotaries will impulsively whip into one of the shopping malls to buy a new bed, or two? Typically I like to shop local, but last year when my husband and I replaced our 10-year-old mattress we drove half an hour to Reading to shop at Jordan’s. A Sleep Number right down the street probably wouldn’t have changed our decision.
Mattresses are infrequent big ticket purchases (Sleep Number’s least expensive “classic” line starts at $998 for a Queen-sized mattress; that’s a pretty big number). It’s the antithesis of a neighborhood store, and so disappointing for those of us who were hoping for some independent retailers to bring the community together. A distinctive cafe like Sofra, an ice cream store like Toscanini’s, a children’s clothing or a women’s shoe store, a bicycle shop — anything more compelling than another mattress store!
And what of efforts to make this area more walkable? The mattress store (and its next door neighbor The Vitamin Shoppe) have turned their backs to the possibility of foot traffic along the sidewalk along the parkway by orienting their store fronts to the face the parking lot at the rear of the building. In fact, the Vitamin Shoppe’s door on the parkway side is locked, and the Sleep Number’s might as well be because they’ve entirely blocked the view to the store’s interior with their giant number display in the sidewalk window.