Couple’s crash course in foam cushioned entry into business

EVERETT — Dean Hackbarth and Chris Amante dove into the foam business without knowing a lot about the product.

The husband-and-wife team always thought about owning a niche business.

They got their chance after Hackbarth, a former manager at the Kirsten Gallery in Seattle, learned the foam shop across the street was for sale.

The couple bought the Friendly Foam Shop in May 2010.

“He didn’t know anything about foam, I didn’t know anything about foam so it was very much a crash course,” said Amante, 55. “We’re teaching ourselves everything and we’ve been learning a whole lot.”

The business included a Seattle location at 5315 Roosevelt Way NE that originally opened in 1974. A Bellevue store at 12121 Northup Way, Suite 204, was added in the 1990s.

Hackbarth and Amante in late 2012 opened the Everett store at 2110 37th St.

The site includes a warehouse to house additional inventory.

This location reopened June 5 after flooding caused it to be closed for about a month.

“We’re excited to be (in Everett) because it serves a large community,” said Hackbarth, 53. “It’s the old stomping grounds from when I was a kid so it’s nice to bring something back to the area.”

There are more uses for foam than they ever could have imagined, he added.

The Friendly Foam Shop provides therapy aids, and wedges and other body support items to several major Seattle-area hospitals and health care systems.

The shop also provides dozens of chiropractic and physical therapy clinics across Western Washington.

Friendly Foam Shop customers visit the store looking to replace foam upholstery for couches and chairs or seeking additional comfort in cars, wheelchairs and beds.

Others need foam cut to protect to fit around and protect sensitive equipment like cameras or instruments or to even create props for live-action role-playing games.

The summer months are also the busiest time for orders of foam used in sitting and sleeping areas in campers, RVs, and boats.

“We seem to have really great active clients with boats and RVs but foam can provide comfort in a lot of areas of people’s lives,” Hackbarth said.

Their foam is manufactured in Washington and Canada, making chemicals and insecticides that can be used on products being shipped from countries farther away unnecessary, he added.

“People with chemical sensitivities and asthma and things like that find great comfort in knowing that our foam doesn’t have those properties,” Hackbarth said. “We work really hard to keep our foam clean.”

Gross revenue has increased almost 40 percent since Hackbarth and Amante became owners of the Friendly Foam Shop. They are on track to gross more than $1 million this year. The business includes six additional employees. Hackbarth’s son, Spencer Hatton, manages the Bellevue store while his sister, Tish Chlad manages the Everett store.

Foam is shipped throughout the country with many orders coming from Hawaii and Alaska, Hackbarth said.

In time, he and his wife would like to add shops in Oregon and continue down the West Coast.

They encourage their customers to visit Friendly Foam Shop locations to try the foam for themselves before buying it.

“They have to try out the foam,” Amante said. “We spend a lot of time with customers. That’s what the friendly is in addition to our foam being made friendly.”

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