Major Thoroughbred owner James “Matress Mack” McIngvale has taken to social media and opened his Gallery Furniture stores to the citizens of Houston as the city grapples with the massive rains brought on by Hurricane Harvey.
Through Facebook Live on his Facebook account McIngvale announced Aug. 27 he’d open his two furniture stores for those in need of a dry place to stay, even giving out his personal cell phone number for people to call. The Houston businessman and philanthropist gathered some Gallery Furniture employees and personally went out in trucks to bring in some 250 people to his main store and one in Richmond, Texas.
“They were out there until 2-3 o’clock in the morning. ... It just got so dark that they couldn’t get out,” said McIngvale’s daughter, Laura McIngvale Brown, of the rescue efforts.
“A lot of people might not realize it, but we did the same thing during [hurricanes] Ike and Katrina,” she said.
“We have really big parking lots, and although those lots flood, the buildings do not,” Brown said. “We’ve been lucky. It’s been tricky to get people to the locations, but the rescue teams have done a great job. They’re out there now rescuing people.
“It’s one of those things. ... You’ll be in one neighborhood where everything is completely flooded and destroyed and you’ll go a mile and a half up the road and everything is fine. What’s crazy is a lot of our personal family members are flooded out. ... My cousin is flooded out of her home and she’s seven months pregnant; my dad’s sister is completely flooded out. Even in sections of Houston that don’t usually flood ... they’re seeing catastrophic flooding.”
As of Aug. 29, there were some 450 people at each store receiving a warm, dry place to stay, sleep, and even shower.
“Both stores are at capacity right now, with about 450 people at each store, we are arranging for some showers to be taken out to our Grand Parkway location out in Richmond,” Brown said. “That’s one thing people really need; they’ve been wading through all of this water. We got some portable showers out there. The main location has showers. My dad built a big gym there for the staff.”
As for Brown, at the moment she is dry and in Austin, Texas.
“I’m with the U of H [University of Houston] football team. ... They got out and they are here practicing because, well, it’s Texas ... real sports don’t stop for weather,” she said. “I’m feeding the boys at our restaurant [Vince Young Steakhouse]. It’s tough to grasp how serious it is. A lot of the coaching staff has lost homes as well. We’re just trying to give them a little sense of normality since everyone back in Houston is in a boat.”
McIngvale has raced several top Thoroughbreds in his 20-plus year as an owner. He is best known as the owner of 2015 champion sprinter Runhappy, winner of the 2015 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, who now stands at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.