By Eric Peterson | Aug 04, 2015
St. George, Utah
St. George, Utah
In the late 1990s, Bob Wilding built a custom Murphy bed, or wallbed, that folds up to free floor space during daytime. He soon teamed with his son, Dennis, built a $600 website, and the orders started coming in at an unexpectedly speedy clip.
That made for something of a trial by fire. "We knew how to build them but not how to package them and ship them," Dennis remembers. "We scrambled."
But the Wildings soon perfected the art of wallbed fulfillment and their business grew from there. They've rode the wave of a few national trends: Murphy bed sales paralleled the popularity of home offices and, more recently, tiny houses. "People seem to be scaling down a little bit," says Dennis.
By 2000, Wilding Wallbeds was a full-time job for both father and son. Bob retired in 2003 and Dennis succeeded him at the helm of the company. His brother, Dan, joined Dennis to spearhead sales and marketing.
The company built a 13,000-square-foot space in 2005, immediately realized they needed more room, and doubled to 26,000 square feet in 2006. Also in 2006, Wilding opened a showroom in San Diego, followed by one in Las Vegas the next year. "We grew pretty rapidly through 2008," says Dennis.
But then the Great Recession hit and the Vegas showroom bit the dust. Dennis says it was an educational experience. "We've learned how to be more efficient," he explains. "We're more productive with fewer employees."
The company has recovered nicely since 2010. Sales topped $8 million in 2014. "We've grown at a steady 10 to 12 percent," says Wilding.
Quality if the differentiator. "We've always prided ourselves for using almost all wood products," says Dennis, citing a notable lack of particle board in Wilding Wallbeds, in-house molding milling, and top-quality mechanisms from several suppliers. "They were all hand-built by us." Customers "are interested in a timeless piece," he adds.
About 70 percent of sales originate online, with the showrooms doing the remainder of the business.
It's a popular option for live/work spaces, and some units fold up over desks without disturbing it one bit. "Everything can be left on top of the desk," says Dennis. The company has also developed Murphy bunk beds that are a good fit for camps and dormitories.
Challenges: "The challenge will be controlling the growth," says Dennis. "We plan on opening some new locations and we're in the middle of developing some new products."
Opportunities: Dennis plans to open additional showrooms in California, starting in the south and going north from there.
Another one: "We've started to delve into the sleep disorder labs," Dennis says, describing a "one-room-fits-all idea." "We've tweaked it to allow for a lift-and-lower exam table. The room can work 24 hours a day."
Needs: Workforce. The local labor pool in St. George "ebbs and flows," says Dennis. "Southern Utah's at 3.5 percent unemployment."