Jim McIngvale, or “Mattress Mack” as he’s often called, is famous for doing more than providing same-day furniture delivery service in the Houston area—he’s also known for his extraordinary commitment to community service and philanthropy: He feeds the hungry, helps victims of natural disaster, and gives away furniture regularly to those in need. The Gallery Furniture owner is also a key supporter of the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays.

Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale, known by many Houstonians simply as “Mattress Mack,” recently committed to an endowment of $250,000 for the creation and support of an interactive retailing library at the Center for Retailing Studies. [Photo: JP Beato III]

Gallery Furniture has been involved with the CRS for more than 15 years, recently moving to the highest level of sponsorship, but McIngvale’s involvement goes beyond financial gifts. He guest lectures in classes, has presented twice at the CRS’s Retailing Summit, and develops mentoring relationships with students interested in retail.

To continue to inspire Mays students to discover the world of retailing, McIngvale has recently committed to an endowment of $250,000, which will be used to create and support an interactive retailing library in the center. Plans are currently in production for the facility, which will feature state-of-the-art technology to provide students with current information about the retailing industry.

Center Director Cheryl Holland Bridges says that McIngvale’s gift is central to their mission of being a bridge between the academic and professional world, as it will put students in contact with the latest information from the marketplace in a dynamic learning atmosphere. Plans for the library include touch-screen monitors that will display business news, current marketing campaigns, presentations from retailing conferences, information about retail companies and positions in retail, and video interviews with retailing CEOs. The multimedia materials will encourage students to consider careers in retail, says Bridges.

McIngvale will also provide furnishings for the space to tempt students to stop by the library to relax, study, and learn more about the world of retailing.

Bridges says that whenever McIngvale speaks to her classes, “he always makes a big impact.” She recalls his recent visit and guest lecture in her retail merchandising class, during which he unexpectedly offered to take three students with him on his next buying trip. He made the arrangements for the students to accompany him to a furniture show in North Carolina; invited them to spend time at his store analyzing his customers and product line; then gave them a budget and asked them to select some items for his stores. “It was true experience education that related exactly to the course,” she said.

McIngvale has been actively involved with the CRS in a multitude of ways for over 15 years.
McIngvale has been actively involved with the CRS in a multitude of ways for over 15 years.

McIngvale says he’s glad to be involved with the CRS, as it’s “the best retailing studies place in the world. It’s great for students, and great for people that are in the retail business, like me.” He calls the center a resource for new ideas and inspiration for retailers, and says that he gets as much out of his association with the center as he gives. In addition to information, McIngvale says he appreciates the retailing students he’s able to recruit through the center. “It’s definitely a win-win.”

McIngvale has been in retail for more than three decades and has clearly found success in the arena. He says through the library he hopes to show students at Mays that retail is a great place to make a career.