Best Mattress has been tucked into the Meeting Street scene for 88 years. But in the early 1960s, the custom-mattress maker lived a saucy, Hollywood storyline that its employees have been recounting ever since.
“Our people have always worked with their hands,” explains President Buddy Delaney. “We don’t do mass production.” Today their creations are standard-size mattresses, plus custom-sized mattresses for antique beds, yachts or motor homes. But there’s one order from back in the 1960s that holds a special place in history. “We made a heart-shaped bed for the famous actress, Jayne Mansfield,” he laughs. While they haven’t made a heart shaped bed in 30 years, there is still the occasional round bed customer who seeks a less square sleeping experience.
The company’s roots actually first took hold in downtown Columbia. “Best Mattress started on Main Street 94 years ago,” says Buddy. Buddy’s grandmother, Mabel Beecham, and his father, Raymond Delaney, Sr., founded the business which, back then, renovated and repaired aging mattresses and made new mattresses and pillows.
Mabel, a go-getter and seamstress originally from Tennessee, was a well-known penny pincher. Something you really had to be when starting a business at the onset of the Great Depression. “My father told me she’d sweep up cotton dust and scraps in the one-room factory at the end of the day in the hopes of having enough to make one more pillow,” he laughs. “She knew where every penny went. I guess that’s why we survived.”
Looking for more property and greater affordability than burgeoning Main Street offered, Mabel and Raymond decided to relocate to 713 Meeting Street in West Columbia, where the business still holds court today. The soaring glass storefront with rounded corners has always been the company’s home. That’s the very location where one of their greatest claims to fame came to pass.
Buddy worked at the factory and showroom while a student at Brookland-Cayce High School and got right back to work there after graduating from the University of South Carolina. Today he and his sister, Linda Martin, co-own the business. While Buddy serves as the general manager, Linda handles the business office and human resources. Throughout the years they’ve watched Meeting Street — and West Columbia — evolve.
“It’s amazing that we’ve gone from being a sort-of forgotten part of the city to the hottest part of the city.”
“It’s amazing that we’ve gone from being a sort-of forgotten part of the city to the hottest part of the city,” says Buddy. More than simply being business friendly and a good value, West Columbia has become a great place to be, says Buddy. “There are the recent brew pubs, WECO and Savage, plus new businesses, restaurants and shops on State Street. New apartments, and street festivals, too.”
There are many reasons to come to West Columbia, explains Buddy, and even more to stay.
“I can’t think of being anywhere else. It’s more than our location being somewhat of a landmark,” says Buddy. “It’s nice that we have a 15,000 square foot building with a factory and loading dock in the rear. We could probably find that again, but not with this view of Columbia’s skyline.”
“I can tell you right now,” he adds, “we’d never find it with a beer garden across the street and a coffee shop next door. It would be hard to pull that off,” he laughs. Gazing at the ancient sign up the road, Buddy recalls that WECO has always meant you’d see a bit of everything.
“Up there at the Anchor Café and the WECO pool hall, you could sit down at the counter and see half of the people you knew from West Columbia,” he says. “You could see the mayor in there, the football coach from the high school. Back then it wasn’t the best area but even the wealthy folks came across the river for those home-cooked meals.”
A heart-shaped bed from Best Mattress, unforgettable meat-and-three joints and timeless memories of people and places. The story of West Columbia is glorious and getting better every day.