Danielle Segar (who didn't want her real name used so we'll go with Danielle Segar) looks toward the Mattress Firm and Mattress Pro stores located right next door to one another at a shopping center in the heart of Montrose. She smiles before speaking, saying, "People are beginning to call it The Mattrose. Personally, I think it's happening because a bunch of Reptilian Overlords have decided they want us to all sleep comfortably forever, while they invade the neighborhood."
Segar has lived in Montrose for more than 16 years, and has seen the neighborhood change a lot over that time. Her theory on the area's boom in mattress stores may not be entirely serious, but she's not the only resident that regards it as an invasion- A kind of pillow-topped plague that's quickly eroding the character of the area. There are several mattress stores now operating within a small distance of one another, but the Mattress Firm and Mattress Pro located at the corner of Westheimer Road and Montrose Boulevard in the old Westmont shopping center, seems to have particularly alarmed some residents.
Megan Armstrong moved into Montrose in the early '90s, as a young artist drawn like others to the neighborhood's bohemian charm. She's watched many of her friends get priced out of the area as gentrification brought in redevelopment and new types of residents, but still loves Montrose. Even so, the new mattress shops springing up around the area concern her.
Armstrong explains, "I see that Mattress Firm and Mattress Pro right next to each other, and it blows my mind that they opened right at Westheimer and Montrose. This neighborhood has changed so much since I moved here 23 years ago, and those stores just look like they belong out on Harwin or near a freeway exit. There're at least two other mattress stores right down the street on Shepherd, and more scattered around the area. I just don't get it."
There are many theories as to why a neighborhood once most known as the center of Houston's gay community, and an oasis of sorts for artists and other unconventional people is suddenly becoming a stronghold for mattress stores. Besides the Westheimer/Montrose location, Mattress Firms in particular are well represented in the Montrose area, with one at Westheimer and Wesleyan and another at West Gray and Montrose Boulevard. Part of the attraction is obvious to anyone living in the area, as construction on new homes and apartments is going full throttle, which will mean throngs of new residents will be flooding into the area soon, and the mattress companies, or Reptilian Overlords (depending on who you ask) are hoping those newcomers will need a new mattress set.
We did attempt to interview employees of the mattress stores but all declined our request. Which leaves us with trying to figure this out without them.
Mattresses are also regarded as one of the few items that many consumers won't buy online, at least not without trying one out in person first. That makes sense, as a good mattress can cost well over a thousand dollars, and no one wants to discover that something they hoped would feel like a slice of Heaven really feels like a bag of rocks when it arrives for delivery. The substantial price of a new mattress set might also indicate a trend occurring in Montrose. - As the area gentrifies, it has become more expensive to live there, with rents on the rise, and more well heeled residents replacing those of lesser means. As a result, companies like Mattress Firm likely anticipate fewer residents in the area who will be content to crash out on a rickety second hand futon to save a few bucks, and are betting that those who can afford to live in Montrose now will also be willing to spring for an expensive new mattress.
In a move that can either be considered genius or diabolical depending on one's opinion about the likelihood of mattress stores actually being a front for an evil Reptilian invasion, Mattress Firm also owns Mattress Pro. The two stores being located side by side isn't a matter of competitors going head to head, but instead is a way the company is marketing in the area. Mattress Firm is supposedly a slightly more upscale store than Mattress Pro, so area consumers who can't afford Mattress Firm, can walk 20 feet to the Mattress Pro next door, and shop there instead.
However, in the case of the two mattress stores at Westheimer and Montrose fueling so much of the Mattrose angst, there is a rumor that the shops won't be there for very long. Megan Armstrong explains. "I've heard that the owners of the property want to redevelop it into one of those luxury apartment buildings with retail on the lower levels, but can't because a few of the older tenants like Half Price Books still have several years left on their leases. The theory some people have is that the property owners are just renting out the empty spaces to the mattress stores until they can force out the older businesses and tear everything down."
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It's clear that Montrose is transitioning into a different kind of neighborhood than it used to be, and change always brings growing pains along with it. The comedian Lewis Black once famously referred to Houston as being the location of "The End of The Universe", even naming a cd after the discovery. It refers to him stumbling across the two Starbucks Coffee locations directly across the street from one another over on West Gray in the River Oaks Shopping Center. If such a configuration of chain coffee stores signifies the End of The Universe, what must two mattress stores next to each other indicate?
"Mattrose, this is the Mattrose now," says Danielle Segar. "The Reptillians are winning, and it's best if we just accept their comfy mattresses and surrender the neighborhood to them. Suburban kids used to come here to buy cool clothes and experience things they couldn't anywhere else, maybe years from now they'll drive here because of the great mattress selection that's available."