November 14, 2011
By Susan Smigielski Acker
Cheryl and Richard Hahn hopped on the organic craze long before it was fashionable when they started Organic Comfort Zone 20 years ago in Norfolk’s Ocean View section.
Cheryl now runs the company of 10 employees that makes and sells the CozyPure line of bedding products. The difference between their product and others is that the inside is made of all-natural-latex products. The outside lining is all-natural fibers including cotton, she said.
“They wrinkle and we say it is good if they do because it means there is no synthetic material in them,” Hahn said. “The cotton we use is grown without pesticides and does not have any formaldehyde in it. The wool is also pure, like our grandparents had many years ago.”
People with sensitive skin find their products more tolerable although Hahn said her bedding items are not medical products so they do not make guarantees.
Their best seller is La Noodle pillow. It feels similar to a down-filled pillow except without the possibility of dust mites and other allergy-causing factors. It has naturally made “noodles” that don’t attract dust mites, something that down pillows could do.
“People like it because it moves like a down pillow,” she said.
The idea to create an organic business was her husband’s . Hahn’s background is in the textile industry, marketing for a sportswear company.
“I knew little about organic products, but I learned quickly,” she said.
The first store was in JANAF shopping center in Norfolk. They later moved to the Hilltop area to capture Virginia Beach tourists doing upscale shopping. That move brought them national attention.
“We began a catalog mailing soon after that,” she said.
Now they are mailing catalogs to about 15,000 people. When Internet shopping took off, they immediately launched a webpage – www.cozypure.com and their company grew to 10 employees.
Prices range from $32 for a small pillow to $1,900 for a mattress.
Hahn said the business took off more, but she made a conscious decision not to have it grow too fast.
“The opportunity to grow big has always been there. But I am also a mom and did not want to be at work all the time. I want to be available for my children,” she said. Her children are now teenagers.
“ We’ve enjoyed a moderate and steady growth, allowing us to expand on my time line, using our revenue towards the expansion without the need for any outside loans whatsoever. Over the past five years we’ve been fortunate to experience 30 to 40 percent increase in our bedding sales each year. It’s great not having any huge financial debts looming over our head – especially in this economy,” she said
Hahn recently made the decision to place to place her products with other select retailers throughout the country.
“That is what I am working on, putting together point-of-purchase displays. We will also have fixed pricing.”
While many consumers purchase from their catalogs and online, Hahn recognizes many customers want to feel a bedding product before they purchase it.
When asked if the Eco friendly fad has helped business, Hahn said, “Yes, way back in the early ’90s, you did not hear a lot about it. Our consumer base has expanded but our competition is also greater.”
Recently Hahn enjoyed a sense of accomplishment while staying in a hotel.
“They had our pillows in the room,” she said.
The deal with the hotel was better than her other sales.
“That was awesome,” she said. “I slept in and it was great.”