'Mattress Mack' opens stores for Houstonians amid dangerous winter storm: 'We're here for them'

Houston roads have turned to ice and many have lost power.

February 18, 2021, 8:30 AM

As winter weather pummels Texas with snow, ice and freezing temperatures, Houston businessman "Mattress Mack" is opening his doors to those in need once more.

Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale first went viral in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston. McIngvale opened some of his Gallery Furniture stores during the storm, turning them into evacuation shelters.

Houston is again in danger this week, as storms have knocked out power and turned roads to ice -- and "Mattress Mack" wants his community to know there is a safe place to turn.

"It's kind of a feeling of déjà vu doing this again, though obviously the circumstances are quite a bit different," McIngvale told ABC News. "But the need is tremendous."

PHOTO: Houston businessman and philanthropist Jim McIngvale loads a box of food into the back of a pickup truck at a distribution site, April 14, 2020, in Houston.
Houston businessman and philanthropist Jim McIngvale loads a box of food into the back of a pickup truck at a distribution site, April 14, 2020, in Houston. The Community Outreach Division of the Harris County Precinct One Constable's Office distributed masks and gloves to residents living in one of the areas hardest hit locally by COVID-19.
David J. Phillip/AP, FILE

"Anybody who needs it -- whether they're homeless, whether they lost power, whether it's just wanting to come in and get something to eat -- anybody wants to come in, we're here for them," he said. "We all have a responsibility for the well-being of the community."

PHOTO: People with no power at their homes rest inside a Gallery Furniture store after the owner opened the business as a shelter, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston.
People with no power at their homes rest inside a Gallery Furniture store after the owner opened the business as a shelter, Feb. 16, 2021, in Houston.
David J. Phillip/AP

Gallery Furniture is opening its Houston and West Houston stores and is putting mattresses in its new trade school and high school. McIngvale estimates they'll be able to shelter 200 to 300 people at each site.

With so many in Houston without power, McIngvale said he has a generator and bought "10,000 gallons' worth of diesel" as a plan B. In the Houston area, 1.3 million people remain without power, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday. Nearly 800 people are being housed in warming centers, which are at full capacity.

PHOTO: Owner Jim McIngvale talks about opening his Gallery Furniture store as a shelter, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures causing widespread blackouts.
Owner Jim McIngvale talks about opening his Gallery Furniture store as a shelter, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures causing widespread blackouts.
David J. Phillip/AP

"It'll be a tough couple of days to get through the storm but we've been through this before with the hurricane," he said.

PHOTO: Eithan Colindres wears a winter coat inside after the apartment his family lives in the Greenspoint area that lost power following an overnight snowfall Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Houston.
Eithan Colindres wears a winter coat inside after the apartment his family lives in the Greenspoint area that lost power following an overnight snowfall Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 in Houston.
Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP

"They're all slightly shellshocked when they get in here. We feed 'em, we give 'em sweatshirts, and they warm up. They feel safe," he said. "It's a good feeling in a bad situation."

Houston's COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, officials said. Schools will also be closed Wednesday and Thursday, with no virtual or in-person instruction.

As "Mattress Mack" prepares his stores for his neighbors, his 10-year-old granddaughter is by his side, which he's using as a learning opportunity.

"I'm trying to teach her that the essence of living is giving," McIngvale said.

PHOTO: People displaced by Hurricane Harvey shelter at Gallery Furniture in Richmond, Texas, Aug. 30, 2017.
People displaced by Hurricane Harvey shelter at Gallery Furniture in Richmond, Texas, Aug. 30, 2017.
Charlie Riedel/AP, FILE

McIngvale provided an update on his efforts Thursday on "Good Morning America," telling "GMA" co-anchor Michael Strahan that there continue to be "lots of people with lots of needs" coming to his Houston stores.

"It’s a task trying to make sure these people can get their minds off the difficulties we are in and look forward to a better future tomorrow," said McIngvale, noting he has brought in entertainment like balloon artists to help brighten spirits, particularly for the children staying in his stores.

PHOTO: Owner Jim McIngvale, center, talks with people taking shelter inside his Gallery Furniture store after a cripping winter storm, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston.
Owner Jim McIngvale, center, talks with people taking shelter inside his Gallery Furniture store after a cripping winter storm, Feb. 17, 2021, in Houston.
David J. Phillip/AP

McIngvale -- who said it has also been a task trying to get food, with most restaurants in Houston closed -- is opening his stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has required extra protocols, including mandatory hand sanitizing, face masks and social distancing.

"This is a cavernous store, over 100,000 square feet, so even with 400 or 500 people in it we maintain a safe distance," said McIngvale. "We’ve done a good job on the COVID precautions, not as good as we probably should, but we’re working on it every day."

McIngvale also shared a message to Americans watching from afar the difficult circumstances people in Texas are facing.

"I’d like all Americans to know that when adversity hits we all seem to come together," he said. "We forget about our differences. We focus on our similarities and our commonalities, and that’s what happening in this crisis."

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