As a recent UW graduate, Max Alcabes was barely 20 five years ago when his parents, Carlos and Meryl, brought him in to help run the family business. Sleepers in Seattle is a sleeper sofa specialty store located in West Seattle. Max went to Northwest Yeshiva High School for two years and switched to Running Start, which allows high school students to take college classes and graduate early.
Max had grown up in the business which the family bought in the early 1990s. His parents met 40 years ago at a Sephardic Bikur Holim Purim party. They lived around the U.S. and in Carlos’ native Spain before moving back to the Pacific Northwest, closer to Meryl’s (nee Solonsky) hometown of Eugene. That’s when they bought what was then just a small local furniture store.
Now Sleepers is on Inc. Magazine’s 500/5000 list, one the fastest-growing private companies in America. Many of today’s most successful U.S. companies received their first national recognition from Inc., including Microsoft, Intuit and Zappos.com.
Clearly Max is doing more than selling sofas. After he knocked around the store for that first year, he saw the need for a better website.
“My first day we got a call from a gentleman in Chicago who saw [our] website and wanted to order a sleeper sofa,” recalls Max. He had to be turned down. “I thought, ‘this is crazy,’ other companies sell furniture on-line.”
Now SleepersInSeattle.com is a “build-your-own” site where customers select, design and order a sofa, with customers around the world.
This 21st -century business model also allows Max to live in New York.
“I live in Williamsburg,” he says, although, “I’m not a Hasid or a hipster.” He also brought his good friend and Yeshiva classmate David Feldhammer in as director of operations, “a big part of the team.”
Wherever he is, Max is in contact many times a day with David and his dad, who still works at the store.
“He’s my dad.” Max says, “my partner and my best friend.”
Carlos, who sounds like actor Antonio Banderas, says their father-son business relationship “works very well.”
“I’m still in the 18th century” as far as technology goes, he adds, but “with small business, you either change with the times or you go out of business.”
In its effort to grow, the company recently launched a new site, Savvy Leather Sofas.
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Rebecca Piha cuddles with two of her new best friends. (Photo: Paul Amato)
“I’ve always loved animals,” says Rebecca Piha. As a girl she would bring home “little animals,” a baby possum or baby bird she had rescued.
She began fostering for PAWS in college, caring for abandoned dogs and cats until permanent homes were found. Buying food and supplies at Animal Talk, the Roosevelt Avenue pet store in Seattle she’d frequented since childhood, she learned they were also the nonprofit Animal Talk Rescue.
Twelve years later the Roosevelt High School and University of Washington Dental School alum is president of ATR and their adoption and foster coordinator. She was especially attracted to ATR’s no-kill policy — publicly run or funded shelters euthanize animals, especially to deal with overcrowding. One of Rebecca’s earlier ATR volunteer efforts involved driving around the state picking up animals from over-full kill shelters and abusive breeders.
Recently she chaired ATR’s annual auction, Nine Lives Gala, hosted by Pat Cashman, “a wonderful way to bring the community together” to support homeless animals, she says.
Although spay/neuter awareness has increased, there are still high numbers of abandoned and mistreated animals. Rural areas have the biggest problem with overpopulation and disease. An unspayed female cat can conceive a first litter at five months and bear up to four litters in a year!
“Each adoption through animal talk,” says Rebecca, “allows us to make room for an animal from a kill shelter or one living on the streets.” ATR gets “a ton of calls every day,” but turns away many animals due to space and funding limitations.
Rebecca’s husband, Paul Amato, estimates that Rebecca has fostered and adopted out 1,000 cats and dogs. The couple currently has three foster cats, a feral cat she’s trying to socialize, and two that were returned to the shelter as adults where they became ill, a common occurrence.
Rebecca is an associate at Distinctive Dentistry. She’s due in March with twins, but will continue to volunteer and educate the public about the importance of rescue work.
There’s more information at ATR’s website at www.animaltalkrescue.org and on its Facebook page.