HOUSTON - He is Houston’s own guardian angel in many ways, protecting and providing for many who are in need. Now Mattress Mack is at it again making a big Positively Houston difference.
These days hundreds of Houstonians who head to Gallery Furniture leave the property a whole lot smarter. You see, there are now schools right next to the store.
That’s right, swarms of students are now in school learning everything from math to science all at Gallery Furniture.
"When I heard the average income in a ten-mile radius of Gallery Furniture was only $26,000 I knew we had to do something," says Gallery Furniture store owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale.
The preschool is for "all the children whose parents are in the high school and trade school and the children of employees who work here at Gallery Furniture and the preschool, age six months old to five years old is free, free, free like Gallery Furniture delivery," Mack rattles off in his distinctive sales voice.
Houston’s beloved businessman opened his company under tents on the side of I-45 in 1981 after first being fired from a convenience store, then working in someone else’s furniture shop.
Now, through education, he hopes to help others' career dreams come true.
"To take them from perhaps, a welfare recipient to a taxpayer who feels great about themselves and break the cycle of poverty in their family forever."
"Mack was the KIPP School’s very first funder 27 years ago," says KIPP School’s founder Mike Feinberg.
Now Mack has teamed up with Feinberg and a student from that first KIPP class in 1995, Vanessa Ramirez. Ramirez and Feinberg are co-founders of Gallery Furniture’s trade school Work Texas at Gallery Furniture.
"Work Texas at Gallery Furniture allows our students to get a Department of Labor registered apprenticeship," Feinberg explains. Skills being taught at the school range from Auto Technology and Repair to Plumbing, Landscaping, "Electrical, both residential and commercial, Welding, General Construction," explains Feinberg.
"We’re also teaching conflict resolution like how to handle it when your car doesn’t start and you got to go to work. How to handle conflict with your boss or co-worker. We’re teaching financial literacy," Mack adds
The schools sit in 30,000 square feet of space and have a three-part mission for its students: get a job, keep a job, and career advancement.
"Some Plumbers and Electricians make $100,000, $200,000 a year and that’s certainly the goal for some of our students," says Mack.
Even the 9th through 12th grade high school students get special training.
"So when they graduate they have a piece of paper saying High School Diploma and they’re also certified in a trade," says Feinberg.
All of this schooling is offered to 100 preschoolers, more than 200 high schoolers, and nearly 100 adult vocational students 100% free of charge, potentially changing the trajectory of lives for generations. It’s all thanks to a thriving Houston entrepreneur who believes he has to answer to someone higher than the IRS.
"When I go to meet the Creator, whenever that’s going to be since I’m 70 years old, the Creator is not going to ask me how much money did you make. Instead, the Creator will ask me and all the rest of us how much of a difference did you make?" says Mack.
The schools opened in September 2020. The trade classes last 10 to 12 weeks and students will graduate with no student loans because all three schools are absolutely free.