Mattress Bathtub & Past is closing extra shops. What’s misplaced?


It was the “Past” that at all times captured our imaginations. Past the mattress and the bathtub are the kitchen and the storage, and the yard and the street, and the forest and the ocean and the celebs. Past that’s unknowable, however one guesses it feels rather a lot like a $179 goose down comforter, 20 % off with a coupon.

There was at all times a coupon. Till just lately.

Mattress Bathtub & Past is in bother. Final week, the corporate signaled that it might must file for chapter safety. Its gross sales are considerably down, and its inventory value has plummeted. After closing 150 shops final yr, the corporate introduced this week that it could shut 62 extra.

There’s not a number of dwelling, laughing or loving within the dwelling decor part, one may say. There’s pressure by the strain rods. One thing discomfiting goes down within the land of consolation and comforters.

In a Washington mall on Wednesday night, the entrance doorways to the good Past have been locked. An enormous cardboard “open” signal directed clients to a aspect door. Inside, indicators marketed a 70 % off “Warehouse clearout occasion,” and lots of cabinets have been naked. A single 10-liter flip-lid trash can sat alone. The throw pillows have been askew. An entire row of bathe curtains was cleaned out. Holding vigil over the glassware was a single $6.99 pink mug, inscribed with a phrase, “Good issues are coming.”

This retailer, positioned within the Columbia Heights neighborhood, wasn’t on the list of stores slated for closure. However, issues did appear amiss. The entrance doorways have been damaged, an worker defined, in order that wasn’t essentially a portent. However what to make of the truth that the shop’s sound system was blaring “Better Days,” the music by 1999 one-hit marvel Citizen King (lyrics: “I’ve seen higher days / and the underside drops out”)? Adopted by Katy Perry singing: “Simply because it’s over doesn’t imply it’s actually over.”

Whether or not this was a coincidence or a coded message is past our understanding; requested in regards to the music, a Mattress Bathtub & Past’s publicist responded solely that the corporate “work[s] with an exterior associate to create playlists, which might range by retailer.”

Let’s return. Earlier than Amazon, Mattress Bathtub & Past was the every little thing retailer. “We will handle and current issues now to the client the place they ‘get it’ immediately,” mentioned the corporate’s co-founder Len Feinstein, to The Submit in 1993, a yr when its shops swelled to a mean of 35,000 sq. ft. “That approach dimension is a profit.” That was a special time, when the novelty of big-box shops held a sure attract known as “masstige” (that’s, status consumerism for the plenty). You would go to Borders for tradition and Goal — excuse me, Tar-zhay — for design. Shortly after the opening of BB&B’s first Manhattan retailer in 1993, it was described by the New York Instances because the “form of place the place {couples} are seen holding palms close to the cleaning soap dishes and kissing within the cookie-cutter space … Perhaps it’s Diana Ross on the tapes that fill the air or simply the sense that looking for all these homey sorts of issues is, effectively, romantic.”

It additionally occupied a 35,000-square-foot area within the creativeness of screenwriters, popping up in exhibits from “The Good Place” to “30 Rock.” The presence of BB&B signaled {that a} character wanted to do regular, boring, grownup issues. Will Ferrell’s character in “Previous Faculty” cites a visit to Mattress Bathtub & Past as a purpose he can’t keep out late partying with faculty children. (He events anyway.)

Even throughout the realm of mundane fictional eventualities, the Past of all of it created a way of risk. In “Parks and Recreation,” newly cohabiting younger couple April and Andy head to the shop to purchase housewares and stroll away with a marshmallow gun (“past” stock, for certain). “Broad Metropolis” had an prolonged bit about BB&B being Abbi’s favourite place; she has a particular handshake with the entire staff, and robust opinions about the place objects must be displayed. The 2006 Adam Sandler film “Click on” hinges on a Mattress Bathtub & Past buy of a common distant that, oops, controls time. The shop will get a shoutout as one of many nation’s most patriotic issues (together with Taco Bell, Valium and porn) in “America, F— Yeah!” the filthy-mouthed theme music for the 2004 satire “Crew America World Police.”

Greater than different retailers that additionally do enterprise on-line, Mattress Bathtub & Past may be very a lot a shop-in-person vibe. The Columbia Heights retailer’s pathway winds round like a maze, guaranteeing you need to go via kitchen, bed room, rest room and decor sections to take a look at — making you all of the extra prone to choose up one thing sudden. A miniature Christmas tree-shaped waffle maker? A “Snackeez” combo drink-snack holder? The Pet Wedge pocket hair removing instrument?

It lacks the umlauted sleekness of Ikea, or the fashionable universality of Goal, the place you possibly can stroll in hoping to purchase decongestant and stroll out with a container of kiwis and a cute designer capsule-collection top, nevertheless it’s cheap and spectacular in its abundance. All these towels, completely stacked to the ceiling! Till somebody identified that the towels weren’t really folded that effectively — that they have been just strategically shaped over foam blocks to create the illusion of towering perfection and order, and, effectively, the corporate is simply creating its personal metaphors, isn’t it?

Is it actually the top for these funhouses of discounted spatulas and sheets? Pundits have been maintaining vigil on the firm’s deathbed for a couple of years now, nevertheless it’s managed to carry on. Final yr, Mattress Bathtub & Past loved a short resurgence as a meme inventory, shares of an organization that go viral and are snapped up by buyers because of social media. (One 20-year-old dealer made $110 million.) The chain has lengthy outlived its equally vaguely named competitor, Linens ’n’ Issues. (“I noticed that Linens ’n’ Issues was going out of enterprise,” quipped comedian Eugene Mirman in 2011, “And I assumed, ‘Ought to’ve been extra particular.’”)

The Past is filled with issues — shiatsu foot massagers, an elaborate storage system known as the “Battery Daddy,” air fryers, so many post-holiday overstocked air fryers (nice gross sales! Deeply discounted!) — however the Past can also be intangible.

It’s a middle-class religion in self-improvement via nice-looking, nice-smelling stuff. The concept a shoe rack, or a scented candle, or a better thread rely set of sheets may very well be the factor that would repair our properties, and — by extension, just a bit bit — our lives. Within the past of our imaginations, we’re tidy and classy, and our duvets aren’t pilled and our towels aren’t scratchy, and the air smells like lemon verbena, besides when it smells like no matter we simply popped into the air fryer.


An earlier model of this text incorrectly acknowledged that Mattress Bathtub & Past closed 150 shops this yr. The closures have been final yr. The article has been corrected.

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