The TV-Mattress Connection
Former neighbors compete
by Sally Mitani
You get the feeling that if Mike Tawil could sell mattresses out of the trunk of his car, he would. But mattresses don't fit into car trunks, so he went looking for Ann Arbor's cheapest space to rent, which he found at the little Platt Road Center (tucked in behind the Rite Aid at Packard and Platt). He is doing business in the most stripped-down way possible to keep the overhead at next to nothing.
In fact, he didn't even want to spring for any signage, so you'd be forgiven for thinking the name of his store is "Symbol mattresses," but that's actually the brand he's selling--the business's name, his card says, is Mattress and More.> Made by a Wisconsin company, Symbol mattresses start at around $100.
"I'm the cheapest. People come for the prices. Most of Ann Arbor, I'll deliver for free--I'll just throw it in the van and call my wife to watch the store. If she can't do it? Well, I close for a little while." Another way he keeps overhead down is by using his cell phone, listed below, as his business number. Tawil will also build sturdy pine frames for the mattresses in his garage. Not only are they a bargain (around $100, depending on size), but they're marvels of form-follows-function simplicity.
And finally, he sells nearly new TVs at rock-bottom prices. In short, the idea is to supply the transient population of Ann Arbor with the most inexpensive and functional necessities possible and do a high-volume business. "If I make thirty dollars on a mattress, I'm happy. If I make fifty dollars on a TV, I'm happy."
Mattress and More, 3088 Platt, 239-2204. Daily noon-8 p.m. and by appointment. annarbormattressandmore.com
There's one person who's not all that happy when Mike Tawil makes fifty dollars on a TV, though, and that's John Wall, owner of TV Warehouse on South Industrial (behind the PTO Thrift Shop). Though he smiles, shrugs, and repeats the time-honored bromide
about competition being good for everyone, he was a little surprised to find himself competing with his former tenant.
Tawil, when interviewed, didn't mention that last summer he had a mattress store on South Industrial, a space he sublet from Wall. Wall started his business in college, flipping TVs he bought on eBay.
The supply channels for the brick-and-mortar store, which opened last year, are much more sophisticated, including electronics aggregators who collect them from various big box stores. "When [Tawil] had the mattress place next door, he asked all sorts of questions, and I thought he was just a nice guy who was curious about what we did. So I told him everything." Wall adds that since then, he's found a few other TV suppliers that Tawil doesn't know about.
TV Warehouse, 2284 South Industrial, 506-8255, Mon.-Fri. noon-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Closed Sun. shoptvw.com
The following Calls & letters item was published in the April 2013 Ann Arbor Observer:
Mattress and More
"The tone and content of your article about Mattress and More, taken together with the article published about TV Warehouse [Marketplace Changes, March] portrays my business, my business practices, and my reputation in a less than complimentary way," owner Mike Tawil emailed.
"Our store offers a great selection of brand new mattresses and refurbished TVs. Our goal is to serve our customers with the best quality products at competitive price, and offer great service.
"Our prices are competitive because we buy at wholesale price. We work on a low margin of profit because we run our operation at low cost and pass the saving to our customers."
[Originally published in March, 2013.]