One could easily get the impression that Sonia Weksler never intended to follow in her father's footsteps. The self-described "eco-thug" was raised in Texas by her mother and would visit her father during her summer vacations, spending much of her time in her father's Sleep Bedder furniture and mattress store in Rolando. She eventually moved to San Diego in 2001 and worked on a college thesis at UC San Diego about how small businesses can compete against corporate brands.
So when it came time for her dad to retire in 2014, she was reluctant at first but saw an opportunity to bring her own personality to the family business.
"I needed an outlet for all my passion and purpose," says Weksler. "I had other ideas, but I needed something creative and productive."
She bought her father out and, last year, opened a new incarnation of Sleep Bedder in North Park (2855 El Cajon Blvd., sleepbeddernorthpark.com) inside a shopping center that also includes local business such as The Heart & Trotter butchery and Unico juice shop. She rebranded the store to focus more on "indie and eco-friendly" products and also started bringing in local artists and crafters to help fill out the space. Local painter Rich Walker was one of the first artists she tapped, but the space was soon filled with names such as True Delorenzo, Jerry Catarius and a "Camp Kitchen" shop-within-a-shop run by Weksler's friend Stephen Bennett.
"I wanted to infuse the farmer's market stand concept into a store," Weksler says. "To bring the artist community in this neighborhood together."
This farmer's market approach also extends to her participation in the neighborhood's monthly BLVD Market event where Weksler hosts new artists and bands inside the store (the next one is on April 15 from 6 to 10 p.m.). She also hosts weekly and monthly workshops that include everything from community yoga and crystal healing to kombucha classes and chess tournaments. She's also hoping to get approval from the city to let Golden Coast Mead to open a tasting kiosk on the outdoor patio of the store.
And while she certainly wants anyone who needs a mattress to come to her business first, she also sees the store as a means to get people to think about larger issues.
"This is a guerrilla marketing technique to raise awareness about what we do, what we eat and what we buy," Weksler says. "We support local artists in every medium. We take the same approach to sourcing our mattresses that we do with our art."