by Tommy Dickman
One lucky winner received the $2.04 billion Powerball but another lucky gambler was Jim McIngvale a.k.a. Mattress Mack of Houston, Texas. From the impressive World Series run of the Astros arose an unexpected victor, one with an award of a cool $75 million.
McIngvale’s history of gambling isn’t always rewarding. For instance, his bet on the Bengals winning the Super Bowl lost him $9.5 million. But there’s a catch: he actually made $11.5 million off of that bet.
The economics of Mattress Mack’s gambling
In order for McIngvale to place such large wagers he must first have income, and a lot of it. This comes from his furniture company, Gallery Furniture. According to GrowJo, the company’s revenue is $58.4 million this year, and is expanding employment by 14%.
As the owner and founder of Gallery Furniture, the company yields McIngvale a nice salary. From this salary he places a bet, for instance $9.5 million on the Bengals to win. The bet itself isn’t to actually get any more money, however. He uses it to back another risk the company takes.
According to ESPN, before the big game, Gallery Furniture offered a $3000 rebate on Tempur-Pedic and other mattresses bought in the store. The promotion brought in $20 million in sales, almost 70% of which were new customers. He placed the bet to cover the company if the Bengals actually won and they had to pay the rebate. But the Rams came out victorious and so did Gallery Furniture.
Despite a loss of $9 million, they were able to net $11 million in revenue and even reached a new sales demographic. This wasn’t even the largest loss for McIngvale, though. During the 2019 major league baseball season, he lost over $17 million in bets on his beloved Astros.
The Man, The Myth, The Mack
According to the company website, McIngvale was born in the college town of Starkville, Mississippi, to businessman George and his wife Angela McIngvale. After a move to Texas, McIngvale attended high school and then the University of North Texas as a member of the football team before he dropped out in 1973.
His first look into furniture was as an employee at a Dallas store. He and his wife Linda then took a $5000 risk on opening the first of a few Gallery Furniture stores of Houston in 1981. The couple slept in the store to prevent inventory from going astray.
The timing could not have been better since the onslaught of new residents to work in the booming oil and auto industry needed new furniture. But only so many people can move into town and sales lulled by 1983.
After failed attempts at door to door sales, he bought a TV ad and coined the slogan, “Gallery Furniture saves you money!” His commercials also featured him in a mattress costume, hence the nickname Mattress Mack. The McIngvales even ended up working as producers for the film “Sidekicks” starring Chuck Norris. From 1991 to 1998, Gallery Furniture’s sales grew from $30 million to $100 million.
Lemonade, Cookies, Monkeys! Oh my!
Customer service is everything in sales which explains some of the wacky ways McIngvale gets customers in store. According to the company’s website, on weekends sweet treats like cookies and cake are offered along with refreshments such as lemonade. But the best addition to the store’s atmosphere was the introduction of wildlife. Unlike Jungle Jims and Cabelas which have animatronic and taxidermied animals, at the Gallery Furniture Fort Bend store live monkeys, birds, pufferfish and sharks are on display. The store even has a Mexican restaurant that offers free lunch and dinner to customers in need.
Philanthropy has also been a big facet of McIngvale’s life. In 2017, he converted his stores into shelter and distribution centers following the devastation from Hurricane Harvey. He has given back to the community of Houston in many ways. He is usually the high bidder at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. Funds go towards college scholarships, and he has also been known to donate furniture around the holidays. He campaigned at the 1996 Olympics using his own funds for Houston’s bid to host in 2008. In a statement put out after his big win he said, “I would do anything for this city.”