IN THE MIDDLE OF A CATASTROPHIC HURRICANE, HOW DO YOU TURN A FURNITURE STORE INTO A SHELTER IN A MATTER OF MINUTES?
It’s easy, according to Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner of Houston’s famed Gallery Furniture chain. “You just open the doors, welcome people in, give them something to eat and a place to sit down, and there you have it. And you give them a place to sleep. We have a lot of mattresses,” he says matter-of-factly. “I had two choices: let them in here or let them drown. Pretty easy.”
McIngvale opened his North Freeway and Grand Parkway locations as shelters as soon as the devastation became apparent during Hurricane Harvey. He sheltered more than 1,000 Houstonians, providing victims with food, water, supplies and a comfortable place to stay. He even housed the National Guard at the Grand Parkway store.
And he himself never went home during the ordeal. “I stayed here (the I-45 store) the whole time – I’ve got a Tempur-Pedic® in my own bathroom in the back, so it was OK,” he says. Besides, there was work to be done. Gallery Furniture deployed a full fleet of trucks to go on rescue missions, began a donation drive at both locations, put out a call to Houstonians for cleaning supplies and Mack personally purchased truckloads of cleaning materials to give away.
He also started a fundraising campaign that raised nearly $180,000. At its conclusion, he cut checks for four organizations: Crisis Cleanup, Points of Light, Houston Community ToolBank and TXRX Labs.
Currently, he’s working on housing a group of six displaced Catholic nuns – in his own house. “I’m half furniture huckster and half social worker – half capitalist and half social worker,” says the generous businessman. “It’s a unique combination.”