The story of Houston's beloved Mattress Mack
HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Every day, families stop by Gallery Furniture on Houston's North Freeway to refurnish their flooded homes and tell Mattress Mack: "thank you."
They say thank you for rolling out the red carpet -- in the form of mattresses -- by opening the store to flood victims after Hurricane Harvey.
"I'm a ready-fire-aim guy," says Jim "Mattress Mack" McGinvale. "It was easy for us to make shelters. We have restrooms, bathrooms, showers. It was the right thing to do. There was never a question in my mind about doing it."
A move that earned praise from the very top. President Trump told the country about the Texan who stepped up in the clutch.
On Thanksgiving, Mack will open his store once again -- to anyone and everyone.
"The ONLY criteria is you have to have a good appetite," said Mack.
He expects to feed close to 10,000 people -- his way of strengthening the community.
"So many people live isolated," he says. "Even though we live in a big city, we live isolated. Bringing people together here builds relationships, builds camaraderie, should be fun."
Mack, 66, says faith is one of two things that have always motivated him.
"I've been a practicing Catholic since two years old, and still practicing. I'm not good at it, but I'm still practicing."
The other is a desire to leave behind a legacy of giving.
"My parents were a huge influencer in my life and my parents were always grateful for whatever they had and they taught me how to give and give away and the essence of life is giving, grateful for everything, entitled to nothing. I think that's a good way to look at life."
His life changed after college, when he got fired from his job at a convenience store.
"I went home and went into depression for 4-5 weeks and I turned on the TV one Sunday and there was Oral Roberts. He said, 'Get up and go to work and make something of your life.' that was a seminal event in my life and I decided I would indeed get up and go to work and make something out of my life and I've been at it ever since."
In 1981, Mack and his soon-to-be wife Linda -- began their new business adventure in an abandoned model home park. They started Gallery Furniture with just $5,000 and a dream.
"In '83, the oil boom turned to bust," he recalls. "I took the last $10,000 I had and I rented a TV studio, trying to do an ad. I was all nervous about it. Finally on my last take I reached in my back pocket, pulled money and said, 'Gallery Furniture will save you money!' and that's been my tag line ever since."
Mack is just as eager for today as he was when he started. Customers will often find him standing at the front counter putting in 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
"I like to work. I get my energy off talking to customers. I think one of the problems in the country is too many people are robbed of the joy of working - there really is a joy in working."
That joy is reflected in inspirational quotes around Gallery, alongside fans blowing American flags.
"My biggest piece of advice, if not for my struggles I would not have known my strength. We're all going to get knocked down every day. I tell all these young kids who work here, that life is not fun easy or fair and no one said it was going to be."
The way Mack sees it, he owes Houstonians for their decades of support. Over the years, he estimates that he's paid out about $50 million to fans through his zany sports promotions.
"My wife is not happy about it, but she'll get over it."
There's still one big thing he has left to do outside of the furniture business: revolutionize heart transplants. He's helping to fund development of the first total artificial heart after his dad and brother both died of congestive heart failure.
"I've had so many young kids, millenials come in and say we like what you're doing, I'm doing more now. So that's a good thing, that's what I want to leave behind is a legacy of giving."
The spirit of Houston is embodied in him. Extraordinary acts to us, to him another day in the life.