Greece’s Coco-Mat opens in SoHo
By Kathy Tzilivakis
Dwellers in the “city that never sleeps” can rest easy now—or at least a lot more comfortably. Greek company Coco-Mat has opened its new flagship store in the city’s stylish SoHo district.
The mattress manufacturing giant moved into a spacious 5,650-square-foot showroom on Mercer Street amidst other retail giants and stylish shops in what is considered America’s most prestigious shopping neighborhood.
It’s the company’s first stand-alone retail store in North America. “It’s our most beautiful store,” said Paul Efmorfidis, founder and CEO of Coco-Mat, who was in New York for the grand opening.The interiors are designed by acclaimed architect Thomas Juul-Hansen and award-winning lighting designer Hervé Descottes.
The SoHo store is also one of the first to invite prospective customers to lie down and take a nap in a special sleep chamber-- a private mattress-testing room.
Coco-Mat is famous for its all-natural, handcrafted mattresses made without metal springs or synthetic foam and padding. Instead, he uses materials like horsehair, silk, cotton, linen cactus fibers, eucalyptus and coco and seaweed collected from Greek beaches. Seaweed is an important discovery by Efmorfidis because it contains iodine – a natural shield against allergies and respiratory problems.
“Nobody else uses seaweed,” said Efmorfidis, a former teacher who stumbled into the mattress business about 25 years ago. “This is what makes our mattresses the best in the world and why they are selling like hotcakes,” said Efmorfidis, who can speak nine languages.
Everything - mattresses, pillows, towels and furniture – are all manufactured in Xanthi, northern Greece. And no cut-offs go to waste. The company boasts a near-perfect rate of recycling. Ninety-six percent of all leftover products are recycled.
What crisis? With more than 60 stores in 11 countries (and counting), Coco-Mat is riding out the Greek economic crisis at a time when most Greek companies are struggling to survive another day.
In fact, Coco-Mat is one of Europe’s 500 fastest growing entrepreneurial and job-creating companies, according to Europe’s 500, the European organization and networking platform for growth companies and their entrepreneurs.
Coco-Mat is also one of the 10 fastest growing companies in Greece. It currently employs more than 200 people. Global sales totaled $70 million last year.
The company has supplied beds to the London Landmark Hotel, Hidden Hotel in Paris, Ritz-Carlton Barcelona, Hotel De L’Europe in Amsterdam and the Athens Sofitel.
What’s Efmorfidis’ secret to success? It’s a business model based on local, natural and sustainable practices. Coco-Mat is a prime example of how social and environmental responsibility can build a sustainable and impressive business.
On the social side of the business, Efmorfidis is committed to creating a friendly work environment for his employees. He offers them a three percent pay rise to quit smoking. He has also declared November 10 as a day when everyone at the company donates blood.
As an equal opportunity employer, Coco-Mat’s policy is to hire disabled, as well as racial, ethnic and religious minorities. The company today is representative of 13 nationalities and 9 religions.
Another idea coined by Efmorfidis is to offer employees the chance to invite a manager to dinner to discuss their career and future prospects.
Employees are also offered a five percent pay increase if they start riding their bicycle to work. Customers are eligible for a five percent discount if they ride their bicycle to the store.
Exporting Greek hospitality
Helping his homeland is just as important to Efmorfidis as is saving the environment.
The business savvy mattress maker, who lives in Amsterdam with his family, is now trying to apply his mattress-making success strategy to help fix debt-ridden Greece’s battered image abroad. He’s using the new SoHo shop as a springboard to export Greece’s two biggest commodities – hospitality and cuisine.
“This shop boasts the full concept of Greek hospitality,” said Efmorfidis, 55. “When people come into the store, they are treated to a Greek salad and they enjoy a glass of orange juice or a cup of Greek mountain tea. And, we are ready to introduce our Mediterranean foods like olive oil, bread, lemon, oregano, feta and Greek wine and whatever else we have in Greece.”
One customer even walked away with the itinerary for a dream holiday in Greece. “I invited a lady, who bought an 11,000 dollar bed, to Greece,” said Efmorfidis. “I told her to buy the tickets and to come back here so I can arrange for her to stay at the most beautiful hotels and to see a side of Greece that tourists normally don’t get to see. She was so happy.”
As for the economic crisis in Greece, Efmorfidis said it is probably a blessing in disguise. “I am more optimistic than ever before that the crisis might bring some much needed changes,” he said. “Nobody can push us down. Greeks will survive.”
WHAT MAKES A COCO-MAT BED SPECIAL?
Coco-mat beds are constructed of multiple layers of all-natural materials, providing optimal, elastic support to the human body, without the use of metal springs. The materials include tropical coconut fibers, seaweed gathered from Greek beaches, fibers culled from cactus plants, horsehair treated with natural rubber, goose down and wool. The mattresses are then set atop ergonomic bases made from solid wood like pine, oak and beech. The beds are each made per order, in line with the dimensions and requirements given by the customer.