Roger Pickett, president/owner of MurMaid Mattress Inc. and lifelong resident of Cleveland, was recognized by the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce for his vision and commitment to his business and his community involvement at the annual Business Development Month kickoff luncheon today.
Mr. Pickett is the 16th individual to receive the Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year award since its renaming to honor the contributions of the late Mel Bedwell and 21st to receive the award since this recognition program began.
Mr. Bedwell was one of the most loyal and supportive members of the Small Business Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors Business Development Month, officials said.
Staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales or unit volume, innovativeness of product or services offered, response to adversity, and evidence of contribution by the nominee to aid community-oriented projects form the basis for this award.
MurMaid Mattress was established in 1979 by Roger Pickett’s parents, Elmer and Joy Murray, as a revival of what was once a manufacturer of upholstered furniture. During the 1980s, sales were $100,000 to $200,000 annually and rose to $300,000 by 1990. In 2012 sales increased to $7,000,000 with 14 locations. The Cleveland factory and showroom are located at 2401 Georgetown Rd.
MurMaid Mattress offers the only factory-direct bedding in the region, handcrafting mattresses and box springs in standard sizes, as well as special order and custom sizes. The manufacturer uses quality materials such as hardwood frames and boxes, flame-retardant fabrics, and memory and gel foam in the bedding production, company officials stated.
“This gives MurMaid a niche in the market that other bedding retail stores cannot provide,” nominator Lynn Saunders, a long-time employee of the company, explained. Under Mr. Pickett’s supervision, products are constantly revamped to conform to government standards and the latest products offered on the market. He also designs new models and services most warranty calls to stay in touch with customers’ needs while assessing the manufacturing plant’s product quality. “Product development is ongoing to meet the customer’s sleep needs,” Ms. Saunders noted.
Alongside his locally made MurMaid bedding, Mr, Pickett offers various national brands on the company’s retail floors. “Any product offered in the national market can be found on the showroom floor in Cleveland,” Ms. Saunders said.
The award winner’s nominator acknowledged that it is impossible to be in business for 30 years and not experience adversity. MurMaid Mattress is no exception. “In a family-owned and family-operated business, adversity is just part of the business plan,” she said.
The transition from first- to second-generation leadership presented many challenges and compromises. The business also has weathered two economic recessions, the most recent with Mr. Pickett at the helm. “During this time, he managed to keep the business in tact with minimal downsizing and no loss of employees due to an already lean workforce,” said Ms. Saunders who, along with 11 others, has been employed with the company for more than 10 years. She continued, “Some store leases were not renewed, and multiple repair and maintenance projects, manual mail-out campaigns, and various office tasks were given to manufacturing employees to keep them at a 40-hour workweek.”
Overall, the company’s financial strength proved to be a contributing factor at weathering the economic downturn due to an unencumbered balance sheet. Adversity in the mattress business also comes in the form of competition. New competitors enter the market often, resulting in an ongoing battle to make a mattress company stand out and gain market share, Ms. Saunders shared. "Mr. Pickett is acutely aware of this and is ever changing and looking for improvements to his product line, store locations and advertising techniques,” Saunders pointed out.
She continued to share that just as Mr. Pickett understands the importance of up-to-date equipment and skilled employees to make a quality product, he also understands the importance of giving back to the communities in which his business is located. He owns and operates various corporations and partnerships and manages the mattress factory and 13 retail locations in five counties within Tennessee and Georgia, leaving little time for committees and group involvement.
However, he does donate bedding product and support financially many local and nearby communities. Among them are People for Care & Learning, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Family Promise of Bradley County, Goodwill, Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, Bradley County Long-term Recovery Organization, Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Chattanooga Furniture Bank and Ronald McDonald House.
A member of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Pickett serves on the board of directors. He is also a member of Cleveland Associated Industries and the Better Business Bureau. Mr. Pickett volunteers as an assistant Sunday school teacher and is a member of First Baptist Church.
Jake Stum, director of programming and development for People for Care & Learning, endorsed Mr. Pickett’s nomination. “I could list an unlimited number of ways in which Roger serves others,” Mr. Stum said. “He consistently made products from MurMaid Mattress available to storm victims receiving assistance from the Long-term Recovery Organization efforts [following the 2011 tornadoes]. He has partnered with People for Care & Learning’s efforts in Cambodia to help give the poor a working chance. He understands this mission and is fully committed to help a group of people who absolutely cannot help themselves.”
He continued, “I’ve witnessed Roger’s faithfulness to lead a Sunday school class of teenage boys for more than seven years. And I am consistently impressed with his commitment to his family. He and his wife, Cindy, rarely miss one of their daughters’ college volleyball games, no matter the distance from Cleveland.
“On a personal level, he is a great friend and mentor to me.” Mr. Stum concluded, “Roger Pickett is an individual that Bradley County should be proud to recognize for his leadership, compassion and service.”
Previous winners of the Small Business Person of the Year are Debbie Melton, Don Ledford Automotive Center; Shannon Ritzhaupt, Café Roma; Ed Jacobs, Ed Jacobs & Associates Inc. and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network; Hal Roe, Bradley Rentals; Jim Workman, Bender Realty LLC; Don Geren, Cleveland/Bradley Business Incubator; Steve Robinson, Cleveland Plywood; Lynn Jones, Lynn Jones Enterprises; Ross Tarver, Tarver Distributing Co. Inc.; Loye Hamilton, Coldwell Banker, Hamilton & Associates; Kenneth Higgins, Santek Environmental Inc.; Kay Jenkins Cowan, Jenkins Restaurant & Deli, Dan Cooke, Cooke’s Food Store and Panera Bread; Catherine Boettner, Cleveland Tubing; Jim Duggan, Robinson Building Center; Reba Garrison, State Farm Insurance; Ron Braam, Manufacturers Chemicals LLC; Susan Shelton, Bradley News Weekly; Larry McDaniel, Town Squire; and Mel Bedwell, Cleveland Business Machines.
The Small Business Committee of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce sponsors Business Development Month as part of the Chamber’s commitment to the business development of its members, the economic growth of the region, and the highest quality of life in our community.