Her business is down, it’s always been down. . . and feathers. . . and much more. “Cookie” Vanous is the president of Czech Feather & Down Company in the historic Mt. Vernon, Iowa. She is keeping alive a business established in 1885 that produces handcrafted feather and down pillows, comforters, feather beds, and cushions for furniture.
CZECH FEATHER & DOWN
"DOWN--AS IN FEATHERS, AND MUCH MORE. "
Her business is down, it’s always been down. . . and feathers. . . and much more. “Cookie” Vanous is the president of Czech Feather & Down Company in the historic, Mt. Vernon, Iowa. She is keeping alive a business established in 1885 that produces handcrafted feather and down pillows, comforters, feather beds, and cushions for furniture.
Cookie also provides a variety of custom-made products and renovations. Czech Feather & Down Co. has been handed down through the family from generation to generation and is steeped in the traditional methods of pillow and comforter making.
Cookie purchased the business from her 86 year old aunt 25 years ago to keep alive a lost Czech art. She says feather and down is making a comeback and is gaining in popularity because more and more people are traveling to Europe and like the products. Customers are now going back to quality natural items, not synthetics. At one time there were more than 500 companies in the Midwest similar to Czech Feather & Down, but large furniture and bedding corporations came in and synthetics were introduced. Cookie’s business is unique…now only one of a kind. Fabric (ticking) for her custom products comes from Germany and feathers and down primarily from Poland. Feather and down is shipped to New York where it is inspected and cleaned and then shipped to Cedar Rapids.
SCORE contact - why and what?
In the spring of 2005 Cookie contacted SCORE East Central Iowa for some marketing help. John Ruth was assigned the project. Johns’ background included CEO of the Amana Society in the 1990s. He expanded marketing of the many Amana branded products they produce. This includes beer, beef, high quality furniture, wine, woolens, and many other goods and services
John met with Cookie and suggested she cross market with the Amana furniture store and the woolen mill. He introduced her to the Amana Society leadership at a meeting in Amana in the summer of 2005.. They reacted very positively to the idea. Cross marketing has helped all three operations gain additional exposure for their products and has brought two nationalities more closely together. Today, Czech Feather & Down is producing sales, and Cookie estimates they will accelerate. Her sales over the past season increased substantially. She has completed a short video(see below) which is shown at both Amana locations, and has a new Website up. She is now advertising on TV and demonstrating her products at festivals in Amana.
How'd it go?
The majority of her sales continue to be from out of state and by word of mouth. She says working with John Ruth means she will be putting together a more comprehensive marketing plan which will increase sales and employees. Cookie credits John and the SCORE East Central Iowa organization with opening her eyes to other possibilities. She says SCORE is the best business organization she has seen which provides counseling and training. She looks forward to a long term working relationship with them. She has not been timid in telling others about SCORE and has become a strong ambassador.
When you meet Cookie Vanous, you will see a person who loves what she does. With her son, two daughters, and her sisters’ two daughters, Czech Feather & Down will be continuing a rich tradition in a very specialized high quality industry. Bringing home the comfort of the Old World with her handcrafted feather and down products is her passion.