HOUSTON – A four-alarm fire Thursday night caused major damage to a furniture store that has become something of a Houston landmark over the past three decades.
Jim McIngvale, better known as “Mattress Mac,” stood surrounded by his family, friends, and faithful employees as he watched his business, Gallery Furniture, go up in smoke.
The four-alarm fire that started around 8:30 p.m. destroyed the 60,000 square foot warehouse/distribution portion of the original location in the 6000 block of Interstate 45 North and sent water rushing into the showroom.
Amazingly, McIngvale was optimistic even as the fire he said destroyed over $5 million worth of furniture lit up the night sky and around 45 fire trucks and 10 support fire and EMS support vehicles converged on his store.
He told employees, “The reason we’ve always been successful out here is our wonderful employees, and it means the world to me and Linda and Laura and Elizabeth to have y’all here tonight.”
“We will get through this and be better on the other side – thank God,” McIngvale said.
He later pointed out that many of the employees who were present came from their homes throughout the Houston area when they heard about the fire.
The group was made up of several races or ethnicities, and a wide range of and ages, united like one big family. The held hands as McIngvale led them in the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary Prayer. At McIngvale’s request, an employee led them in singing the National Anthem and America the Beautiful.
The store was filled with customers and employees when the fire began. McIngvale said when an employee called him from the warehouse saying there as a fire, he first thought it was a joke.
“I looked around the on cameras, couldn’t see anything and then I saw these flames licking the corners of the warehouse,” he said. “Some of the guys went back there and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but the fire was too intense.”
The fire department responded in less than a minute, McIngvale said, adding that they were “fighting like tigers” to put it out.
“We’re thankful nobody got hurt and thankful all of our employees and customers got out,” he said.
Firefighters helped store employees rescue the parrots in the bird sanctuary between buildings.
McIngvale stood with his arm around his daughter, Elizabeth and said they had faith God would lead them through this.
“We’ve always been supported by our employees and our community and the good lord smiling on us,” he said. “My
brother died on December 27, and that day was a whole lot rougher than this,” he said.
“The warehouse has been destroyed but our spirit has certainly not been destroyed and our faith has not been destroyed,” McIngvale said. “Material things may come and go but our faith and our principals live on, and we’ll cont to do what we’ve done for 28 years.”
“We’ll all raise the barn back together.”
Liz McIngvale told reporters her dad taught all of his kids “to never give up no matter what battle they have to face.”
Early Friday, the cause of the fire remained undetermined.
By Friday afternoon, McIngvale had rented another warehouse and posted a bulletin thanking Houston and telling customers his Post Oak location remains open and he will reopen the I-45 location as soon as possible.
District Chief Tommy Dowdy of the Houston Fire Department said an employee stated he heard a popping sound and saw some fire around a standby generator. However, as of early Friday, the cause of the fire remained under investigation.