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Troutdale business proves that what's old is new again

Murphy beds are making a comeback


Photo Credit: THE OUTLOOK: TROY WAYRYNEN - Bob Dragoon, owner of Murphy Bed Specialist, displays various wood finishes he provides customers. In the background is a Murphy bed frame using a special spring action for easy lifting.

Earlier this year, Troutdale resident Bob Dragoon stumbled across a ‘profit-making hobby’ that would serve him well when he retires in four years.

Now, he’s made his bed and intends to lie in it.

“This was meant to be a transition from work to retirement,” Dragoon said, owner of Murphy Bed Specialist. “I’d been looking at several business opportunities for a few years when I saw the Murphy Bed Trainers website. That’s how I learned that (Murphy beds) are still viable and you can make a living at it.”

Dragoon admits he wasn’t looking for a second career, but surprisingly enough, his niche business plan uncovered a market just waiting to unfold. With longtime homeowners downsizing and adult children moving home, Murphy beds provide a solution to space issues without compromising comfort.

In the early 1900s, according to legend, a man named William Lawrence Murphy was wooing an opera singer in San Francisco, but lived in a one-room apartment.

Because the moral code at the time frowned on a woman entering a man’s bedroom, Murphy designed a fold-up bed that could convert his bedroom to a parlor and thus, provide a socially acceptable room for entertaining.

While similar fold-up beds were available through the Sears, Roebuck and Co., catalog, Murphy’s pivoting and counterbalanced suspension spring design earned him patents in 1912 and 1916, making his name synonymous with the concept. Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Typically considered for studio apartments, Murphy beds are making a comeback among homeowners and residential developers looking to make the most of small spaces. Dragoons Murphy Bed Specialist company builds frames and cabinets to accommodate mattress sizes from twin to king.

Dragoon credits his business model to a Santaquin, Utah, company called Murphy Bed Training. Consultants Scott and Tess Morgan shared their 25 years of industry experience with Dragoon, providing him with detailed designs and training.

They even helped him put together a floor model and design booth space for the Portland Home Show last winter. Dragoon’s first entry into the Murphy Bed market caught him a little by surprise, however.

“My goal was to sell one bed each month starting last January,” he said. “But at the Home Show, I met a woman with I&E Construction (in Clackamas), who asked if she could get a quantity discount. That was a question I never would have expected on my very first home show. They were building an apartment complex in Independence (Oregon) and needed 12 Murphy beds. I sent in a bid for the job in March and received a purchase order for the job in September. I guess I’ve met my goal!”

Dragoon worked with Daryl Kelm, co-owner of Aaron’s Custom Metal Fab in Portland, to manufacture a frame using specifications from the Utah consulting firm. The design uses coil springs — versus traditional suspension springs — mounted to the frame, instead of the cabinet. Not only is the frame featherlight and easy to lift or pull, but the springs require no adjustment.

“In most Murphy beds today, you’ll find side wall attachments, with the springs mounted to the wall of the cabinet that houses the bed,” Dragoon explained. “In our design, no metal touches the cabinet so there’s no chance the cabinet will be damaged.”

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Dragoon works with a Portland company to custom build his cabinets, which are constructed from maple, alder, oak or cherry woods. Dragoon’s Murphy Bed cabinets are almost a work of art, ranging in price from $1,300 to $1,700. Custom made by a Portland company, the cabinets are constructed of maple, alder, oak or cherry woods and finished in a variety of stains with bi-fold doors. And because Dragoon uses only local suppliers for manufacturing and assembly, turn-around time from ordering to installing is about three weeks.

“Most Murphy bed components come out of Florida or Canada,” Dragoon said. “But here, we build them locally. That was important to me.”

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