David Spittal spent much of the two years he had earned after founding, building and in 2005 selling his first mattress company reconnecting with family and community.
The Putnam Valley, N.Y. resident served on his local school board, coached soccer with his two middle school-aged kids—his daughter is now a junior at Wesleyan University, his son a freshman at Gettysburg College—volunteered as chairman of the board for his local YMCA camp and also sat on a sustainable energy committee.
It was while serving in that last role that Spittal paused to consider that most mattresses are made with some combination of polyurethane, polyester fibers and wire springs—creations whose useful life ends at about age eight and then lay in landfills for thousands of years.
He began researching the prospect of a comfortable, eco-friendly, far longer-lasting, biodegradable mattress made of entirely organic materials.
“I knew that there was a desire, especially with the ‘out-gassing’ of chemicals from polyurethane foam,” Spitall recalled Monday from the warm, welcoming showroom of Healthy Choice Organic Mattress, open since Friday at 21 South Ave.
“I had read some articles written and research done on that out-gassing, that there are toxic chemicals and carcinogens attaching to dust particles and you breathe them in and they get into your system. After the food you eat and the air you breathe, there is the mattress you spend eight hours a night on, so you might want to have it be healthy and make sure it’s not emitting toxins. So I knew based on my experience in mattress design and manufacture and selling that there was a need out there, because no one else was really doing this.”
‘This’ being a full line of handmade mattresses that use no chemical glues or flame retardants, whose primary ingredient is a locally made, natural latex (more on that below), with an organic cotton and wool cover.
Spittal in about eight years has launched four stores (he closed a Westport location to open in New Canaan) in New York and New Jersey, and two others are franchise-owned stores.
“When I first started, people kind of looked at it as a bizarre concept—‘What is that?’—but now people say, ‘Yes, it’s an organic mattress,’ they understand it, so the market is growing,” Spittal told NewCanaanite.com. “The business has been built primarily on customer testimonials and referrals and people buying additional mattresses for families or homes or telling friends. The customer satisfaction level is unbelievably high, greater than anything I’ve seen in a 30-year career. So it’s not only a story about a great, chemical-free mattress but people really appreciate locally manufactured products and the fact that it’s really comfortable.”
Asked how he chose New Canaan and for his first impressions of the town, Spittal said the demographics here—people with resources (an organic mattress, which lasts 30 to 40 years, can cost $2,000 to $5,000 depending on how much latex is used) who are concerned about their environment generally and personal environment—fit the organic mattress well.
“I love it,” Spittal said of New Canaan. “I’ve had a great reception. People have come in and welcomed me to the neighborhood. I really think they are pleased with a company coming in offering this.”
Tucker Murphy, executive director of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce—an organization Spittal said he intends to join—said she’s heard people “rave about” the product.
She added that Spittal has happened into an increasingly visible, heavily foot-trafficked spot next to the newly opened South Avenue Butcher shop.
“I’ve heard several people talk about organic mattresses and we think that’s a nice addition and something people will embrace,” Murphy said. “The families of New Canaan will appreciate having choices when it comes to mattresses.”
Healthy Choice Organic Mattress also offers latex pillows, organic wool and cotton blankets, sheets, comforters and toppers.
In New Canaan, Spittal enters a local market also served by a Sleepy’s store, at Forest and East Avenue.
The organic mattress from Healthy Choice is singular, he said, in that it uses a firm version of natural latex for the support structure, and softer layers of latex on the top for pressure relief.
“The two things I’m trying to do when I design a mattress are to give your body proper support and then alleviate pressure on your body,” he said. “So it’s those countervailing forces of soft on top and firm underneath is how a mattress is designed. Since I use latex for both, it’s not only environmentally friendly and non-toxic but it also is extraordinarily durable. It performs very well and it lasts a long time.”
Because he doesn’t use spring units, Spittal said he can customize the mattresses to any size.
“That’s why we have retail stores—people can try them,” he said. “We can fit you with a mattress. It’s not based on price. We fit you based on what works for you.”
The company that makes Healthy Choice’s natural latex is based in Shelton, Spittal said, while the mattress itself is manufactured in Bethany.
“I think I have the lowest carbon footprint of any mattress company in the country because of the lack of transportation,” he said.
Healthy Choice Organic Mattress can be reached at 203-920-1244. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays except Tuesday, as well as on Saturday, and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday.