MILLINOCKET, Maine — Patrick Cyr is experiencing a ticklish dilemma that few business owners face, though many would like to.
Cyr’s company, Courtney Bed Inc., sold about 50 of his handcrafted pediatric beds for special-needs children last year, the most ever in the nearly 10-year history of the business. And Cyr noted that he’s well on track to do the same thing by December.
The only problem for Cyr lies in the dilemma of expanding his business or keeping it where it is.
“Eventually I would like to see these five people that work for me work full-time because right now they are just part-time,” Cyr, 60, said. “I would love to be able to create some more jobs for the town of Millinocket.”
The former paper mill worker became involved with the bed-making business by necessity — His daughter, Courtney, was born with intellectual disabilities that caused her to wander around their Millinocket home at all hours. At one point, Cyr said she slept only a few hours a night.
The Cyrs required a bed that would keep Courtney safe and confined while allowing her to feel secure enough to sleep. His attempts to buy a medically-licensed bed that would fulfill all her needs was made frustrating by the expense and lack of insurance coverage.
So he decided to try making one himself. He designed it on a napkin over dinner and built the prototype the next day.
The following night, Cyr said, Courtney was sleeping soundly in her new bed. The four-posted, hardwood frame holds a special twin-size foam mattress. Detachable fabric sidewalls supported by the posts enclose the sleeping area.
Cyr’s bed building continued, along with the occasional sale, until state welfare officials asked him to construct beds for state clients who had children with needs similar to Courtney’s.
That encouraged Cyr to get his bed the appropriate medical licenses and patents, which he did. Except a dispute between state officials during negotiations to buy more beds ended without Cyr getting a contract, he said.
But by then, Cyr was in the bed-making business and opted to continue, making bed components at the Brewer Business Center and his home in Millinocket. He has had customers in more than a half-dozen states and often works with foundations to help families buy the beds. Beds can be ordered directly from his website for $4,400 plus tax, shipping and handling. Medical retailers sell the beds for significantly more.
Two customers, Kate Leong and Natalie Gilmore of Pennsylvania, said the bed vastly improved the lives of their children, who both needed safe enclosed environments in which to sleep. Leong’s son Gavin has cerebral palsy, and Gilmore’s daughter has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which causes seizures.
When you have a special-needs child requiring comfortable and safe bedding, “the first things you find are hospital looking beds with Plexiglass sides, and they are all clinical looking,” Leong said.
“They look like they are out of a Russian orphanage,” added the 43-year-old Leong of Valley Forge. “But the Courtney Bed just looked like a real bed that I would want in my home.”
Gilmore said, “[Cyr] was really patient and understanding and helpful in our purchasing the whole bed. Because she has seizures, my daughter had to have everything padded up with extra padding, and he made sure that we got that.”
“It is a great height for her,” said Gilmore, 42, of Hanover. “She just cuddles up in the corner of it and goes right to sleep. She goes to sleep a lot faster than she did before.”
Both women said they happily suggest the bed to other families, and one recommendation led to a family purchasing another bed this week, Gilmore said.
Averaging about five beds a month, Cyr’s business could expand to manufacture 10 every 30 days — if sales continue to grow and more insurance companies cover the purchase of his beds, he said.
“It really comes down to sales,” Cyr said.