2003 Trailblazer Award Recipient: Jim McIngvale

2003: The AAF-H was pleased to honor businessman and philanthropist Jim “Mack” McIngvale with the Trailblazer Award in recognition for everything that he has done for Houston and surrounding communities. Almost everyone knows that “Mattress Mack.” Jim McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture, is a local icon and hero. 

The newly married McIngvales moved to Houston in 1981 with $5,000 and a dream. By promising same-day delivery, delighting customers, and "thinking big" Mack turned an ordinary business into an all-American success story. Gallery Furniture is one of the most successful businesses in Houston and one of the biggest and most successful furniture stores in the nation. McIngvale’s co-authored book, “Always Think Big,” outlines tips and principles that anyone can use to improve their approach to customer service, and out-of-the box marketing.  

“Customers are the business — the business is the customer,” McIngvale stressed. “Customers may at times seem like an inconvenience or an interruption of your workday, but they are the reason you get to be here and they should be the reason you get out of bed every day.”

McIngvale is best known for his energetic, fast-paced sales pitches, typically ending with some variant of his catchphrase "saves you money!" His distinctive sales style originated from an incident that occurred early on in Gallery Furniture's history.

Faced with financial difficulties, McIngvale invested all his remaining money, approximately $10,000, in a television commercial to be aired on two stations. While watching the commercial being produced, he became dissatisfied and ad-libbed a sales pitch, speaking rapidly because of the limited amount of time available. The ad-hoc commercial proved very effective, and his sales increased dramatically afterward.

McIngvale has given much back to the community where he realized his dream. He frequently furnishes homes of those in need. He also speaks to the youth in area schools and helps to furnish teachers’ lounges as well. He has given generously to the scholarship program held by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

His daughter started the nonprofit Peace of Mind for fellow sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She was diagnosed as a teenager. In 2007, the McIngvale family helped to bring the OCD Foundation’s National Conference to Houston and also provided financial assistance for over 500 attendees, including mental health professionals, educators, and OCD sufferers.

He has also owned Westside Tennis & Fitness since 1995, creating competitions and events to draw top name tennis players from across the globe to the tennis club. A native of Starkville, Mississippi, he was raised in Dallas and played football for both the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas.