Corrections or additions?

This story by Peter J. Mladineo was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on December 16, 1998. All rights reserved.

From Bed Sheets to Bike Seats

Anton Zevenbergen’s successful career making bedsheets

for the stars detoured after a news report on TV about an

"anatomically

correct" bicycle seat would change his career path. Now

Zevenbergen

is no longer into linens, and has moved his bicycle seat enterprise,

ABS Sports, to 3,000 square feet at Windsor Industrial Park.

Zevenbergen, 50, is a native of Holland and has a degree in marketing

and textile engineering from the Textile University, in Enschede,

the Netherlands (Class of 1969). Attracted by the possibilities of

a ritzy clientele and an even higher profit margin, he started a linen

venture, Bonne Nuit (French for good night), in Lakehurst 15 years

ago. "We were involved in the cutting and sewing of extremely

high-end bed linens for the predominately rich and famous,"

Zevenbergen

says. "Our sheets were selling for $1,000 a sheet. Fine colors,

fine fabric, and lots of markup." His client list included Frank

Sinatra, Bette Midler, Cher, Linda Ronstadt, and Michael Jordan.

But then, nine years ago, Zevenbergen noticed a news report on Channel

4 about a bicycle seat invented by Rick Denisar. Immediately

Zevenbergen

saw the possibilities and called Denisar in Browns Mills. He wasn’t

the first to call. Zevenbergen reports that Denisar had received

thousands

of inquiries — and some from heavy hitters like Honda and Volvo

— but somehow Zevenbergen convinced the curmudgeonly inventor

to agree to a joint venture. "He does the manufacturing and we

do the marketing," says Zevenbergen. "It’s much better for

everyone."

While the item is unique, it’s not like a hula hoop, a fad that goes

away, Zevenbergen believes. It’s actually a medical device. "Some

of our seats retail for $139," he says. "We’re the

highest-priced

bicycle saddle in the world. There are none higher."

But the cost of the seats is not a deterrent, he reports, because

usually his clients — many of whom have prostate problems —

have no other choice. "The doctor tells them to have no

compression

in the groin," he says. "Then the two alternatives are a

bicycle

saddle from ABS or a recumbent bike. And most people don’t like

recumbent

bikes."

In October Zevenbergen’s original company, Bonne Nuit, stopped doing

linens. "The dollar dropped against the Swiss Franc so much that

the prices became outrageous even for the stars," he says. The

company is still in operation, but now it has only makes pillows,

pads, and comforters for arthritis victims. For that line, check out

the Web page at http://www.arthritisrelief.com.

Nine years ago Zevenbergen started by purchasing the export rights

to Holland. "I couldn’t get the domestic rights," he explains,

"but as we did okay overseas, we subsequently were able to acquire

the domestic rights as well as the world rights."

Since then Zevenbergen has even added a bicycle saddle and a

children’s

bike to the inventory and has been marketing the product line heavily.

He reports that over the last year he has invested more than half

a million dollars into trade show marketing efforts. The majority

of the bicycle seats, however, are sold via ABS’ website,

http://www.abs-sports.com.

"Because we advertise and we direct the consumer to the Web I

would say that 60 percent of our turnover comes to us from the

Web,"

Zevenbergen reports. "In an advertisement you can say so much.

When someone is in trouble they do research on the Web. So people

search on the Web for bicycle parts and we just ship it overseas.

The anatomy of a Japanese person or a Swedish person is the same."

ABS doesn’t stand for anything in particular. "A Better Seat?

I don’t know," Zevenbergen laughs. "I just wanted to be up in

the directory. ABC Sports, of course, is already taken."

Zevenbergen, who hasn’t relinquished his Dutch citizenship, doesn’t

look back at his decision to leave expensive linens for groin-friendly

bicycle seats. "You kind of go with the flow," he says.

— Peter J. Mladineo

ABS Sports Inc., 92 North Main Street, Windsor

Industrial Park, Building 15, Windsor 08561-0011. Anton Zevenbergen,

president. 609-371-1554; fax, 609-371-7133. Home page:

http://www.abs-sports.com.


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