This story originally appeared on Business Insider.
Jim McIngvale was born in Starkville, Mississippi in 1951. His father, George McIngvale, was a business owner. His mother, Angela McIngvale, was a stay-at-home mother.
A store in Starkville, Mississippi, though not the one George McIngvale worked at. HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images via BI) Source: Houston Intown Magazine
McIngvale went to high school in Dallas, Texas and attended the University of North Texas for three years where he played football before dropping out in 1973.
After leaving college, McIngvale worked at a convenience store. He eventually got fired, which he saw as an opportunity to reinvent himself.
After that, McIngvale got a job at a furniture store in Dallas, Texas. In this role, he learned the ins-and-outs of running a furniture business and developed a passion for the industry.
A furniture store, though not the one McIngvale worked at. Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images via BI Source: LinkedIn
In 1981, McIngvale moved to Houston, Texas with his newly wedded wife Linda and $5,000 in life savings to open a furniture store called Gallery Furniture at an abandoned model home park located next to a freeway. They slept there for weeks to prevent the theft of inventory and worked late nights to pick up furniture.
Jim McIngvale in his furniture store. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images via BI Source: Gallery Furniture
Gallery Furniture’s sales soared during its first year of business as Americans moved to Houston to work in the city’s booming auto, oil, and steel industries and needed to purchase furniture for their new homes.
An oil storage facility in Houston, Texas. Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images via BI
But by 1983, Gallery Furniture’s sales dropped significantly. This forced McIngvale to rethink his advertising strategy which included signs nailed to telephone poles and door-to-door fliers.
A man putting fliers in a door. Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images via BI Source: Gallery Furniture
McIngvale decided to spend his last $10,000 on a TV commercial shown on two Houston stations. He didn’t like how the commercials turned out, so he stepped in front of the camera and improvised a sales pitch. He spoke quickly and energetically, ending his pitch by shouting “Gallery Furniture saves you money!”
The advertisement was a success and led furniture sales to skyrocket. The “save you money” slogan is now famous among Houstonians who watched him on TV.
Throughout the early 1980s, Mack appeared in a number of commercials where he wore a mattress costume. That’s when the nickname “Mattress Mack” was born.
During this time, he shifted away from selling solely value-priced furniture into higher-end furniture which attracted new customers. He credits the uptick in sales to his customer-centric approach to business, promising same-day delivery of furniture.
As McIngvale ascended to fame and fortune, he and his wife became executive producers of the 1992 film ‘Sidekicks’ starring Chuck Norris and Jonathan Brandis. In turn, Norris acted in several Gallery Furniture commercials.
Jim McIngvale (left) and actor Chuck Norris (right). Matthew Stockman/Getty Images via BI Source: The Los Angeles Times
In 1988, McIngvale and his wife Linda moved into a 6,840-square-foot mansion in the Northgate Forest neighborhood, a private residential golf community in north Houston. It included seven bedrooms, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, and an Olympic-sized pool and spa. In 2008, the McIngvale’s sold the home for $815,000.
In 1991, Gallery Furniture generated $30 million in sales. By 1998, sales were at $100 million. McIngvale said that sales jumped because he adopted W. Edward Deming’s management method into his business, which focuses on improving manufacturing processes over cutting costs.
McIngvale chronicled the lessons he learned from building a $100 million business into a book he co-authored with Thomas Duening and John Ivancevish titled “Always Think Big.” The book was published in 2002.
Always Think Big, co-authored by Jim McIngvale, Thomas Duening, and John Ivancevich. Amazon
Seven years after the book was published, McIngvale opened his second Gallery Furniture store, a smaller-version of the original store in Western Houston.
Steve Francis from the basketball team Orlando Magic signing autographs for fans at Gallery Furniture. Chris Graythen/NBAE via Getty Images via BI Source: Gallery Furniture
But disaster struck in late May of 2009 when a Gallery Furniture warehouse was destroyed by a fire that investigators said was caused by arson. The store lost millions of dollars worth of new furniture and racked up $10 million in damages.
Soon after the fire, the Greater Northside Management District where his business properties are located sued McIngvale, alleging he refused to pay $48,000 in taxes between 2005 to 2007. McIngvale said that the district did not maintain the area properly, calling its fiscal policies “taxation without representation.”
McIngvale continued to grow his business. By 2015, he opened his third Gallery Furniture store in Fort Bend County, the largest out of the three. The 165,000 square foot store didn’t just display furniture. It also had monkeys and birds in cages, and puffer fish and sharks in a saltwater aquarium tank. McIngvale said he wanted customers to have an unforgettable shopping experience.
McIngvale’s third Gallery Furniture store featured exotic animals like puffer fish. Brent Durand/Getty Images via BI
On top of his business achievements, McIngvale is also known for giving back to the Houston community. When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, McIngvale opened his Gallery Furniture stores as a shelter for 800 victims who evacuated their homes to avoid flooding.
A family takes shelter at a Gallery Furniture store after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Bredan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images via BI
Two years later, McIngvale entered the sports betting business. In 2017, he made a deal where customers would receive free mattresses if the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the MLB’s World Series. When the Astros won, he lost $10 million worth of mattresses. He said that he likes these big bets because he “gets bored to death with stability.”
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane raises a trophy after the Astros defeated the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. Rob Tringali/MLB via Getty Images
Over time, McIngvale continued making million-dollar sports bets. During the 2019 World Series, McIngvale travelled the country by private jets to place bets on Astros winning at betting sites in three different states. When the Houston Astros lost to the Washington Nationals, McIngvale lost at least $11.6 million in wagers. He has also made bets on Houston sports teams playing in the NFL playoffs, the Kentucky Derby, and the Superbowl.
But in June of 2019, McIngvale got sent to the hospital after a stroke scare where his face and arms went numb. Even though he’s reportedly said that “work is his therapy,” doctors urged him to work less hours until he got better.
But McIngvale’s bets didn’t stop his philanthropy. When tropical storm Imelda flooded Houston in 2019, he once again opened Gallery Furniture to evacuees and raised $106,000 for those affected. McIngvale also handed out thousands of free masks to Houstonians in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a mask shortage. In 2021, he provided shelter to those impacted by the Texas power crisis.
Even though McIngvale lost more than $10 million on bets from 2020 onwards, the furniture kingpin won $75 million dollars after the Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2022 World Series championship — the largest payout in the history of sports betting.
The majority of the winnings will go towards a Gallery Furniture store promotion in which anybody who spent more than $3,000 on a mattress there would get a refund.
Jim Mclngvale at his store Gallery Furniture. Go Nakamura/Getty Images Source: Yahoo Sports
The 71-year-old McIngvale’s net worth isn’t clear — he is not listed on Bloomberg or Forbes’ wealth indexes.
Jim McIngvale with his wife Linda McIngvale at the 2018 Annual UNICEF Gala in Houston. Bob Levey/Getty Images
In a statement released after he won the Astros bet, McIngvale wrote that the last 41 years have been “the greatest years” of his life.” He dedicated his wins to the Houston community. “I would do anything for this city,” according to the statement.
McIngvale at his store Gallery Furniture. Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images. Source: Gallery Furniture’s facebook page
McIngvale hasn’t been as lucky since his big win. In January, he lost $1.5 million betting on Texas Christian University’s Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff’s national championship and $2 million betting on the Dallas Cowboys after they lost the playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers.
Jim McIngvale shaking hands with a woman to whom he gave a free mattress after the Houston Astros won the World Series. Credit: AP via BI Source: Sports Illustrated
Two months later, he lost an additional $4 million after the University of Houston’s mens’ basketball team lost the NCAA tournament.
Jim McIngvale with players from the Houston Astros at the victory parade. AP via BI Source: Sports Illustrated