Photo of business partners Brandon Buckel, left, and Gary VanValkenburg.
Gary VanValkenburg’s family has been in business in Batavia since 1960, during which time they have made numerous changes to adapt to economic conditions and times.
Now, however, VanValkenburg says it’s time to retire.
The business his father started as Central TV in 1960 is now known as Rest & Revive Float Center, which the 70-year-old VanValkenburg runs with a business partner, Brandon Buckel.
Several factors have contributed to VanValkenburg’s decision to put the business up for sale at this time.
'Plans of Retirement on Horizon'
First is the coronavirus pandemic, which forced them to shut down for 85 days, and secondly is the fact VanValkenburg’s wife is seriously ill and he is her primary caregiver.
“I just can’t do both any more,” he said. “It is with mixed emotions we have decided to put our family property and business on the market, with plans of retirement on the horizon.”
Back in 1960, Gary’s parents, Russell and Rose VanValkenburg, opened a television sales/service business in the basement of Mancuso Furniture on Main Street in Batavia.
In 1963, they tore down the front porch of their house and built a store in the front to sell televisions and stereos. In the early 1970s, Twin Fair opened up down the road from their house and were selling the same products for the prices VanValkenburgs paid at wholesale.
Once a Haven for Waterbeds
“My parents knew they had to go in a different direction,” Van Valkenburg said. “At that time, they were sleeping on a waterbed and it was their idea to open a waterbed store.”
That resulted in opening The Waterbed Store in 1974 at 596 E. Main St., where they sold all types of waterbeds.
Gary grew up in his parents business, delivering mattresses with his father from the time he was 10. Gary became a plumber in Batavia, until giving it up to join his parents when they purchased a Waterbed World franchise out of Rochester in 1978, enabling them to sell all types of waterbeds, including name-brand furniture and accessories.
A year later, they opened a second Waterbed World franchise in Summit Park Mall in Niagara Falls. They had 45 complete flotation bedroom suites on display there.
The decision was made in 1986 to terminate the Waterbed World franchise and change the name to Waterbed Professionals.
In 1995 they began offering all types of sleeping surfaces, including name-brand mattresses, memory foam, latex, and adjustable air beds, along with waterbeds.
In 1996 they changed the store name to The Bed Room, as they were offering more than just waterbeds.
“We were the first retail outlet in Genesee County to offer Tempur-Pedic products,” VanValkenburg said.
By 2015, the mattress industry had begun to veer in a different direction, and it wasn’t positive, he said.
Looking for a 'Different Niche'
“We had to look for a new and different niche,” VanValkenburg said. “In 2016 I was having some health issues and my doctor suggested floating. I had no idea what he was talking about. I found a float center in Rochester and made an appointment. After my first floating experience, I felt great. I had no pain and no stress. I came back and told my partner that I think I had found our new niche.”
VanValkenburg and Buckel began to investigate the flotation industry and monitored the progress for a full year. It was on the upswing, as float centers were popping up all over the country and in Europe, VanValkenburg said.
In 2018, they closed The Bed Room and began construction of their new Float Center.
They opened for business in May 2019, and had been in business less than a year when COVID-19 shuttered the enterprise. Business is slowly returning, and they are booked into May, VanValkenburg noted.
“Over the last six decades our family has had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people and make long lasting friendships,” VanValkenburg said.
His father died 10 years ago and his mother a year ago.
Until a buyer comes along, VanValkenburg said they will be open for business as usual. In spite of the changes made to comply with restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, business is good, he said.
Previously: Video: Ribbon cutting, Rest & Revive Float Center, Batavia, NY
Photo by Howard Owens.