With Texas now in the throes of a deadly winter freeze, one of the state’s major furniture retailers is opening its doors to anyone in need of a hot meal and shelter from the cold. Since the rolling blackouts began, Texans without power or a safe place to stay have huddled in the Richmond and Houston locations of Gallery Furniture, which is owned by one Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In a recent appearance on Good Morning America, McIngvale estimated that 1,000 individuals arrived after he got the go-ahead from the mayor to open his doors on Tuesday, February 16. Another 300 people stayed the night.
The showroom’s amenities—not to mention Gallery Furniture’s extra efforts—have helped locals find comfort during a harrowing week. Beyond the presence of heat and power, the showroom’s cable TVs, comfortable chairs, and even Tempur-Pedic mattresses have helped struggling people find relaxation. McIngvale’s team has also enlisted the help of local vendors to serve hot meals almost around the clock, found blankets for those who stay the night, and even brought in face painters and balloon artists to keep kids entertained.
By now, McIngvale’s decision to open his doors and keep the lights on is standard operating procedure whenever the Houston area has a crisis to handle. His efforts first made headlines after Katrina refugees arrived in Houston in 2005. In 2017, McIngvale repeated that kind-hearted action when Hurricane Harvey made landfall. More recently, 2020 saw Gallery Furniture feeding members of the local community as COVID-19 raged.
Providing this sort of relief in the middle of an ongoing pandemic creates a new set of challenges, but McIngvale hopes 100,000 square feet of showroom space, plus mandatory mask wearing, are enough to safely provide relief for those who need it. And as he puts it to Good Morning America, at least those seeking shelter aren’t wading through four feet of dirty water to get through the door.
Though it’s obviously a significant logistical and financial undertaking to convert a furniture showroom into a makeshift shelter, McIngvale asserts that the efforts pay more important dividends. “We can afford that and what we can’t afford is to cause these people to lose hope, we got to give them hope,” he told CBS Houston affiliate KHOU. “Tough times never last, tough Texans do, and we’ll get through this.”
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