Thinking of purchasing a waterbed?
Retailers have abandoned the once-popular mode of sleeping. Mozak's Furniture, 2414 Gordon Drive, is one of the few still selling waterbed components -- heaters, safety liners, mattresses and water conditioner.
Mozak's General Manager Jim Hettinger speculated the demise of the waterbed was the industry's own doing.
"They didn't adapt to what the consumer wanted," he said.
In 1968, Charles Hall presented the modern waterbed as his master's thesis project at San Francisco State University.
The vinyl mattress filled with water and equipped with a temperature device was designed to be a piece of furniture that would eliminate pressure points and use heat to relax muscles.
For the next 20 or so years, waterbeds were hot items -- with more than one connotation. Hall created the bed in the year of the "summer of love," before presenting it as a requirement for his master's degree. The beds were associated in advertising with the Sexual Revolution. Hugh Hefner allegedly had one covered in Tasmanian possum hair.
"The growing number of manufacturers and distributors, with such appropriate names as Aquarius Products, the Water Works, Innerspace Environments, Joyapeutic Aqua Beds and the Wet Dream, can hardly meet the demand," Time magazine reported in 1971.
HOM furniture started as a chain of waterbed stores, and one of the chain's first waterbed stores opened in Sioux City in the late 1970s. Mozak's even started out as Waterbed Emporium in 1985 with a Pierce Street location.
Everyone wanted one.
"I remember selling complete beds for $119," Hettinger recalled. "The industry convinced everyone to buy their least expensive product and then didn't continue to promote them when they adjusted the product and it sold for more."
Just as suddenly as the waterbed became cool, they became uncool.
"People didn't want to slosh around in a bed any more," Hettinger said. "Even with the addition of baffles (which provided a more 'waveless' experience), that made the bed cost more and people weren't willing to pay."
Waterbeds also had other shortcomings. They could spring leaks. They were heavy. The extra parts required maintenance or were not cost-efficient to replace. Moving one required draining the bed -- often an electric pump was needed -- and that was too much hassle for most people.
Manufacturers tried to tweak the beds, but ultimately, they looked more like a regular bed, which -- with a heated mattress pad -- could cost significantly less. Entering the market were Tempur-Pedic mattresses and Sleep Number mattresses, which presented the comfort and personalization of a bed without the hassle of water.
Now, waterbeds account for less than 5 percent of the industry.
"I sold the last complete one at least 15 years ago," Hettinger estimated.
The in-laws of Amber Perry-Wetrosky of Sioux City purchased a waterbed at the height of the waterbed craze.
"Many years of hard work did a number on my father-in-law's back and, contrary to popular belief, a waterbed can aggravate back problems," she said. "They got a new bed -- mattress/box spring/frame -- last fall. My 9-year-old son Tyler was in the market for a different bed, so off to Grandpa's we went."
The process took two days, but Tyler was thrilled.
"It's fun to talk about, and when my friends come over, they are surprised," he said. "They've never even heard of a waterbed! It's like a swimming pool for a bed. My mom said no cannon balls though."
"Wrestling and bed jumping are strictly forbidden," Amber stressed. "Tyler understands that waterbeds are not to be contended with. It is more of a novelty item that earned Tyler some bragging rights. Thankfully he is mature and responsible, which keeps my worries at bay."
Mozak's Furniture stocks the accoutrements for those hard-core waterbed aficionados who refuse to part with their sleeping accommodations.
"We'd probably make more money selling regular bedding," Hettinger admitted. "But there is a nostalgic element to carrying those items."
He added, "And it's a service to customers. If something goes wrong, it takes time to go on the Internet, research where the item might be, order it, have it shipped. It's so much easier to just drive down here."