Making a Difference at Pleasant Mattress in Fresno
Dec 26, 2019 11:00AM
By Enjoy Magazine
A Good Night's Sleep
Story by Natalie Caudle
Photos courtesy of Pleasant Mattress
LIVING AS WORLD WAR II refugees in China, Ernie and Grette Morgenstern never imagined their lives would become a rags-to-riches story in America. Their legacy of quality business and their tradition of resourcefulness continues today through their grandson, Rion Morgenstern, president and CEO of the family company, Pleasant Mattress, Inc.
In the spring of 1938, Nazi Germany incorporated Austria, in what is referred to as the “Anschluss.” The Nazis swiftly began anti-Jewish legislation in Vienna, excluding Jewish citizens from cultural and economic life. The conditions continued to worsen and within a year, half of the Jewish population had emigrated from Austria. Without a single possession, the Morgensterns fled Vienna through the Chinese Consulate, boarding a steamship and eventually landing in Eastern China.
While living in Shanghai for a year, the Morgensterns gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Daisy. While Daisy was still an infant, Ernie and Grette made their way to San Francisco in their new home, America.
Lacking any employment prospects, the Morgensterns journeyed to Fresno where Ernie began a bag company. Using his resourceful spirit, Ernie collected old produce and burlap bags, cleaning and mending them, filling them with produce and beans to sell them back to markets. Ernie was a man before his time, recycling and reusing discarded materials. The idea caught on and Ernie soon named his business Pleasant Bag Co. after the name of the street where he was located, Pleasant Avenue.
Unfortunately, the bag industry didn’t stay successful for long and Ernie moved into selling rags. His ingenuity continued and soon he had a million-dollar idea. Ernie moved his efforts to a bigger-ticket item, old mattresses. He would find discarded mattresses, sanitize and restore them, then sell the product to local thrift stores. Ernie changed his business name for a third and final time; Pleasant Mattress was established in 1959.
Today, the company employs more than 400 Valley residents and is managed by Ernie’s grandson, Rion. Herb Morgenstern, Ernie’s son, ran the company for decades after graduating from Fresno State University. Herb was opportunistic and saw the potential for growth. In 1979 Herb became the company president. He helped the company continue to expand, but has since retired and now sits on the board of directors. Herb takes pride in the family business and the legacy he has helped continue. “One of the best things a person can do is provide work, provide jobs. I enjoy that we can provide a product that’s useful, that’s necessary.” The love of quality business and the importance of caring for others is evident in all of the Morgenstern generations.
Rion brought a new perspective to the family business while continuing the family-like culture of Pleasant Mattress. “The Morgenstern culture is ‘everything has value and make sure it continues to work and you have a long life of service for it.’ That was instilled by my grandfather to my father. It’s part of who I am and that’s pervasive in what we’re doing in the factory. You’re not going to find a better value from any product on the market than what the Morgenstern family puts into a bed. The quality gives me a lot of pride, not just in what we make today, but in what we’ve always made.” Rion can be seen skating on his skateboard through the factory, ensuring quality production is taking place while also connecting with coworkers.
Once operating their production factory in the creatively constructed hodgepodge of dilapidated chicken coops, Pleasant Mattress has grown by leaps and bounds. The local company now sells a good night’s sleep throughout the Western United States and ships their product overseas, as far as Kuwait and Guam. Additionally, Pleasant Mattress believes in giving back to the community that has blessed them with so much.
Domingo “Mingo” Urrea, Jr. began his first day at Pleasant Mattress as a part of a partnership through Pleasant Mattress and the Maroa Home, a Christian discipleship rehabilitation center. “My addiction got me to Pleasant Mattress. I started at the bottom doing general labor and worked my way upstream. There were several different people who believed in me, who saw something that maybe I didn’t see in myself because of my past. For them to see that in me and allow me to grow to who I have become, it is truly amazing when you work for a great family like the Morgenstern family.”
The company’s dedication to quality and to their valued employees continues to make a difference in the lives and communities of the Central Valley. The tri-generational company has a soft spot in their hearts for immigrants and is dedicated to helping all employees. Not only is a restful sleep made easy with Pleasant Mattress, the Morgensterns can sleep soundly knowing that their American Dream has helped so many others achieve theirs. •
Pleasant Mattress, Inc. • 375 S. West Ave., Fresno
(559) 268-6446 • www.pleasantmattress.com
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Homegrown in the Valley, Natalie Caudle finds beauty in the mundane and is ever on the hunt for the perfect salsa recipe. A mother of four, this minivan chauffeur is passionate about adoption and strives to perfect the art of balancing grace and grit.