When was the last time you were looking forward to a trip to the mattress store? Casper—the mattress startup you’ve most likely heard advertised on your favorite podcast at least once—is betting your answer is “never,” and with their new concept shop at Ponce City Market, they’re hoping to change that.
The new storefront, which opened to the public on Monday, is the first of 15 concept shops the brand is rolling out nationwide. The shops feature Casper’s full line of bedding, including pillows, duvet covers, even dog beds, and offer customers a more intimate interaction with Casper’s products before they commit. Jeff Liu, Casper’s director of retail, tells me that they chose Atlanta for their debut in part because our city’s residents have a particularly strong level of awareness of the brand. Ponce City Market, in particular, “has a personality that aligns with our brand,” Liu says. The concept shop will run through spring of 2018.
Casper’s goal is to modernize mattress purchasing: to cut out the middleman and offer an innovative product direct from manufacturer to consumer, not unlike what its startup peers Dollar Shave Club have done with razors. The typical ordeal of purchasing a new mattress—awkwardly draping oneself over a naked Sealy beneath harsh fluorescent lights while a pushy salesman looks on—is what Liu says Casper aims to change.
Rather than a warehouse of bare mattresses under garish lighting, Casper’s products are made up and put on display inside staged “bedrooms,” each housed inside plywood walls and outfitted with a distinctive aesthetic, from the wall color to the books on the nightstand. These styled “pods” are meant to play the roles of both showroom and test-drive: Customers can book one of the pods with the mattress of their choice, close the curtain, and take a half-hour nap. (Naps are very on-brand for Casper—their last big marketing campaign involved a traveling nap mobile.)
To discover whether mattress shopping could, indeed, be a pleasurable experience, I visited Casper a day ahead of their opening. After getting the quick tour from Liu, I entered a dove-grey room with a marble nightstand, a hamburger phone, a houseplant, and a neatly made bed sporting the brand’s newest mattress, the Wave. Casper launched the Wave in August; its inclusion in the Ponce store is the first time it has been available for consumers to test before they buy. The Wave promises to alleviate tension and soreness with hidden contours that provide extra support to the heaviest parts of your body, which Liu tells me have a tendency to sink when laying on normal mattresses: think shoulders and hips sagging into the abyss of a mattress past its prime. Liu also pointed out the pillow: its ergonomic design, which Casper calls “a pillow within a pillow,” results in cushion that’s soft, but not squishy; firm, but not punishingly so.
Supine and supported, I gazed upward through the plywood slats of the room’s faux ceiling. It felt nice, albeit odd to consider dozing off in the middle of a retail store. Could I envision myself stealing away to Ponce City Market for an afternoon to catch up on my sleep? Not really—but my shoulders, for what it’s worth, did feel nicely cradled. (Whether said cradling is worth over $2,000, compared to my character-building $350 IKEA mattress at home, is still up for debate.)