Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner and operator of the Gallery Furniture franchise in Houston, spoke in March at Cy-Fair Express Network’s monthly luncheon.
McIngvale shared his story and encouraged the guests in their business endeavors. Here are a few things Houstonians may not know about the man who "saves you money":
1. Oral Roberts inspired him to start his business.
About 38 years ago, McIngvale was sacking groceries for $3 an hour in Dallas. When he got fired, he said he went into a depression and felt sorry for himself.
“I felt like I was a victim of circumstance—like a lot of people in this country nowadays,” he said. “I felt like I was entitled to a nice home, nice car [and a] nice job without really having to work for it.”
One Sunday morning he turned the television on to see televangelist Oral Roberts preach about using talents.
“[Roberts] said, ‘Get up, go to work and make something of your life,’” McIngvale said. “I can remember that like it was yesterday. I felt like he was talking to me straight through the television.”
The next day, McIngvale got a job in a furniture store 40 miles from his parents’ home. He did not have a car, so he rode the bus two hours both way every day for 18 months.
At that point, he said he decided he wanted to start his own furniture store, so he called his real estate friend in Houston and secured a location two weeks later. When he told his girlfriend, Linda, they were moving to Houston, she refused at first. After hours of persuasion, she agreed to move—but not before McIngvale agreed to marry her.
2. He moved to Houston with just $5,000 to start his business.
In 1981, McIngvale opened his first store. He said he had very little furniture and would drive up to his supplier in Dallas when they sold out on Saturdays to bring another load back to sell on Sunday.
“All of our friends and neighbors all said we’d never make it,” he said. “They had 10 million reasons why we’d be failures. You can do anything you want to do if you want to do it bad enough.”
3. Much of the profits made at Gallery Furniture are given to charitable causes.
McIngvale has fed about 25,000 Thanksgiving dinners in the last 30 years, and he has furnished hundreds of homes for needy families at Christmastime.
Gallery Furniture has also furnished USO facilities around the world in addition to the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.
The St. Luke’s mobile stroke unit was funded by McIngvale, and he is the largest contributor to the Texas Heart Institute.
McIngvale is also one of the largest contributors to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with more than $4 million given.
4. He is funding the world’s first artificial heart.
McIngvale’s father and brother both died of congestive heart failure—a condition that affects the lives of 600,000 Americans every year, he said.
About 2,500 of those people receive heart transplants, but McIngvale is teaming up with doctors Bud Frazier and Daniel Timms to develop a lightweight machine called the BiVACOR.
“Daniel is the inventor, and he gets laughed at a lot,” he said. “All the naysayers are here to say you can’t do it. I’m here to say you can.”