In light of the devastation that Hurricane Harvey wreaked on Houston and surrounding areas, a furniture store just outside the city is sheltering evacuees for as long as they need to stay. Jim McIngvale — also known as "Mattress Mack" — made his furniture store a hurricane shelter after Harvey slammed into Houston, with him and his team employing delivery trucks to orchestrate rescues.
The Gallery Furniture store, which McIngvale owns, has a 160,000-square-foot showroom on the outskirts of the city, and approximately 400 storm evacuees have sought refuge at the furniture store's North Freeway and Grand Parkway locations. In fact, the showroom's Grand Parkway location was registered as an official shelter location, and by Monday night, both locations were reportedly already at capacity.
"All day on Sunday we went around rescuing people out of high water stranded on overpasses," McIngvale told CNN. "We brought about 200 people into the store that way."
Now, the store is not only full of people, but also clothes, toys, and other supplies donated by the local population. The evacuees have their pick of new beds and sofas on which to rest — and they're not the only ones. Roughly 60 National Guard troops are also at the showroom, which serves as an ideal resting place in between rescue shifts.
"[The troops] are sleeping on the best Tempur-Pedic mattresses that are on the market," Gallery Furniture employee Dave Marchione told CNN. "And I'll tell you what — those are some happy soldiers."
In addition to giving the evacuees a place to stay, McIngvale is also providing them with three meals a day, in addition to paying for portable showers. He told NPR that seeing the "devastation of the entire area" encouraged him to open up his stores to the community. In doing so, McIngvale said that he was touched by the stories of the people who came to seek shelter:
Last night, about 1:30 in the morning, this little girl came in. She's 7 years old, had her parents with her and I think probably her uncle. She was the only one in the group that spoke English. And she was crying. And she said, will you allow us to stay here? And it just broke my heart because it was so personal to them. And unlike an adult, she couldn't hide her feelings. And it was just one of those poignant moments that you never expect that break your heart.
So those type of things have happened to so many of these people. One of them had just canceled their flood insurance because they couldn't afford it two weeks before, and then they got five feet of water in their house. So lots of personal stories of heartbreak, but also lots of personal stories of people picking themselves back up and getting back in the fight.
Marchione told CNN that opening his stores to the evacuees was simply McIngvale's way of giving back to the community that has kept his business open for decades. "This is Houston," Marchione told the network. "That's how Houston rolls."