Andrew Levine checks out the new sign at his West Main Street store on April 19.
The old Atlantic Futon sign will be recycled. "Don't you think that's appropriate?" suggests Levine.
One of Charlottesville's best-known brands is no more. But the shop launched 30 years ago as Atlantic Futon lives on, morphed by its founder into something suited to a changing marketplace.
The rebranding into Atlantic Organic, a "natural sleep shop," began last fall, says company owner Andrew Levine, who recalls that futons were barely known in Charlottesville (and even Virginia) when he launched the company inside the old Hardware Store building in 1982.
Before long, Levine moved the business (and its distinctive blue rising-sun logo) to the 400 block of West Main Street. He recalls that, each semester, at least a hundreds UVA students would stroll over or telephone the store to buy the sofas that convert into big firm beds.
Over time, Levine says, he saw that the once-obscure product from Japan was becoming a commodity available at such discounters as Target and Walmart– and even via UPS delivery from Amazon. Concurrent with competitive pressures, Levine says he grew aware of potential health concerns from sleeping atop potentially off-gassing synthetic materials.
The result for the consumer is a boutique still packed with futons but now joined by an array of platform beds and natural-material mattresses, many layered with latex, which comes from the sap of plantation-grown rubber trees.
The business result for Levine, he says, is that first quarter unit sales have increased 517 percent over the same period last year.
"We've hit our stride," says the smiling mattress man.