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David Perry

Sleepy's operates stores under Better Bedding name

But future of acquired chain remains uncertain

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Sleepy's has begun operating 10 Better Bedding stores in Connecticut under the Better Bedding name, but the future of those stores is uncertain.

Sleepy's has not said if it will keep the Better Bedding name, one built by the founding Wholley family over nearly four decades.

Sleepy's, the country's largest bedding retailer, received court approval to buy the Better Bedding chain out of bankruptcy for $965,000. The sale was agreed to by the creditors committee, which had earlier indicated that it would support the Wholleys' reorganization plan.

The Wholley family objected to the sale to Sleepy's, but the court approved the deal, which ends the Wholley family's involvement with Better Bedding. The Sleepy's offer was to pay the creditors in a shorter period of time than that proposed by Better Bedding.

Sealy's representative on the creditors committee, general counsel Mike Murray, noted that all unsecured creditor committees "are under a fiduciary obligation to the many creditors they represent to maximize the creditors' distribution. I strongly believe I fulfilled my role along with the others that served on the committee, who also took their role and obligations very seriously."

Murray added that, from his perspective, "this never was about ‘taking sides.' First, both Better Bedding and Sleepy's were excellent customers of Sealy and second, regardless of who was involved, I believed it was my sworn obligation as a creditor committee member and as an attorney to take off my ‘vendor hat' and operate to maximize the payout to the creditors as the bankruptcy rules clearly require."

Tom Wholley, the longtime vice president of Better Bedding, told The Hartford Courant that he is hearing that Sleepy's will operate the stores under the Better Bedding name and use the same logo.

Wholley told the Courant that Better Bedding, which had been operating under Chapter 11 protection since March of last year, had returned to profitability. The retailer had closed 11 of its 21 stores.

A spokesman for Sleepy's confirmed that the stores are open under the Better Bedding name but had no comment on the company's plans for the stores.

Better Bedding has stores in Avon, Clinton, Enfield, Manchester, Middletown, Newington, Orange, Southington, Torrington and Wallingford, Conn.

Tom Wholley told the Courant that some of Better Bedding's salespeople and a few drivers have been offered jobs by Sleepy's, but that none of the office employees have been offered jobs. Sleepy's is based in Hicksville, N.Y.

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