Richmond’s Mattress King set to retire after 42-year reign | Local Business News

Greg Stevens

After more than 40 years of carrying the moniker of Mattress King, business owner Anil “Neil” Gulati, 72, said he’s ready to retire this year.

Gulati says the Mattress King store on 9012 Hermitage Road will start its final warehouse sale Saturday before closing its doors for good in four to six weeks.

“It’s been a good journey,” Neil said. “But sometimes life is like that Kenny Rogers song you know — you got to know when to hold them and when to fold them.”

Gulati’s long journey started in 1969 at the age of 19 when he immigrated to the U.S. from India. In 1981, he bought a sofa and bedroom store in Willow Lawn, where he was the single salesman on the floor.

In 1986, he began focusing on beds and changed the name of the store to the Mattress King. Gulati expanded the chain, and it operated 26 stores by 2005 and eventually grew his family-run business to 48 stores with more than 150 employees.

Gulati became a celebrated business owner in the community, earning accolades such as the 2003 Retailer of the Year award from the Retail Merchants Association of Greater Richmond. But, as Gulati said, every journey has its trials.

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Gulati said one his warehouses caught fire in 2009 and sometime afterward, the Mattress King filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The chain eventually shut down.

Gulati said he thought about retiring for good afterward, but three years later, Gulati opened the Mattress Club from an 11,000-square-foot warehouse on Hermitage Road off Staples Mill Road.

“That was a tough battle emotionally, financially, the whole business changed,” Gulati said. “I thought about retiring, but after six months I started to get bored and decided I’d try again.”

Although he had to abandon the moniker of Mattress King because of bankruptcy protections, Gulati adopted a new name for his business, and the Mattress Club reopened in 2012. Eventually, Gulati reclaimed the intellectual property of Mattress King, including its name.

After years of working in retail, Gulati said his business has evolved beyond what he had imagined when he was selling products to passersby at Willow Lawn. As the coronavirus pandemic began, his business saw an even more dramatic shift.

“The retail business is not what is used to be,” Gulati said. “The last three years, the whole business environment has completely changed. It’s become very difficult to compete with the big boys like Amazon.”

After turning 72, Gulati said he’s ready to retire and enjoy life with his children and grandchildren, although he won’t be away for long. After his store shuts down, Gulati said he hopes to open a foundation to help young entrepreneurs fuel their dreams as well.

“I’m not sure how big of a difference I’m gong to make, but I’m going to try,” Gulati said.

As the Mattress King’s final warehouse sale starts this Saturday, Gulati said he’s not sure when he’ll close the doors for good. However, he hopes he’s able to make at least one more customer smile before his reign comes to an end.

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