Keith Kriniger started his chain of Bedzzz Express mattress stores in Hoover. The chain is celebrating 20 years in business. Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Keith Krininger got his start in the mattress business as a high school senior while working at Schmitt Furniture in Albany, Indiana.
“I spent eight years there as a salesman and watched the reps and decided my next move was to become a rep,” Krininger said.
When Serta had an opening for a representative in the Louisville territory, Krininger applied for it and was told there was good news and bad news.
“They told me, the bad news is you didn’t get Louisville, but the good news is we want you to move to Birmingham,” he said.
Krininger moved his wife and three children to Birmingham in 1985, where he would spend the next ten years as a Serta representative for the state of Alabama. Ready to take the next step, he decided to open his own retail store, Bedzzz Express, on Lorna Road in Hoover on January 1, 1995.
At that time, the Galleria was the number one shopping destination in the state, and Krininger knew other mattress retailers nearby were doing very well.
His wife, Kay, gave him the idea to spell beds with the three Z’s and helped with the logo. He wanted to incorporate “express” into the name because one of the most important things at that time was being able to get mattresses to the customers faster than the furniture stores.
It wasn’t an easy start for Krininger, who assumed that his knowledge, experience and good reputation in the industry — including salesman of the year with Serta in 1993 — would enable him to get whatever brands he wanted in his store. That wasn’t the case.
“After I opened up, the big brands didn’t want to sell me because my competitors didn’t want them to,” Krininger said. “We started with Spring Air and Therapedic and struggled for two solid years. It was really tough. I opened up more stores, but totally ran out of money and didn’t know what to do next.”
Krininger kept working and after his third year, the big brands — Simmons, Sealy and Serta — got on board.
“Once we got the big brands, business went to the next level,” he said.
In 2000, more Bedzzz Express stores opened. Once year-over-year sales grew, Krininger never looked back. In 2007, his neighbor, Mark Bond, sold his Express Oil Change stores and asked Krininger about getting into the bedding business.
“We sat down and devised a plan for him to open a Bedzzz Express in Tuscaloosa. He became my first licensed store. Since then, Mark has opened up a total of 15 stores in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia,” Krininger said.
Another group, Stagg Bedding, has opened up 13 stores in Alabama and Florida. All of the company’s growth since 2007 has come through licensed stores. Krininger does the buying and merchandising and leads the advertising for all 46 stores, but continues to keep his focus in Birmingham. He also owns Mattress Warehouse, the clearance center stores.
The company turns 20 this year, and the Hoover location, now located across Highway 31 from Crest Cadillac, remains one of the company’s best stores. Bedzzz Express is now the largest mattress retailer in Alabama, carrying all of the major brands.
Krininger doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, and will continue to keep his business growing.
“I think the key to success is to not stop or slow down or be content,” he said. “I will continue to open stores and improve the company until I decide to take a different route. We are very, very thankful for the opportunity that God put before us and we acknowledge that he has played a big role in the overall success of our company.”