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Saturday, April 10, 2021

In Market: Mack and Otis

We find our heroes in tragedy.

Here are two with six legs between them.

Lots of tragedy in the news this week. But there were a few good stories that give you a little hope this little band of humans (and animals) stranded here on planet Earth.

One tale from the city is that of furniture magnate Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, a story courtesy of John Fletcher of Fletcher Communication.

If you’ve ever visited or lived in Houston, you know Mack. He started his business in 1981, selling furniture out of a pickup truck on Interstate 45 in north Houston. He is best known for his rather basic advertising campaigns in which he held a wad of cash and yelled, “Gallery Furniture saves you money!” He performed many of his TV commercials while jumping up and down on a mattress, thus earning the name “Mattress Mack.” You can’t forget him or his company. His caveman-simple advertising apparently works because he’s still in business.

But he may be remembered for more than his wacky commercials following Hurricane Harvey.

He has opened the doors of his two Houston furniture stores to welcome evacuees from Hurricane Harvey. “I believe he should change the name of his stores to the Gallery Furniture Hilton,” says Fletcher.

He sent 10 employees in 24-foot box trucks into the community to pick up victims from their flooded homes and bring them to his stores. The trucks also picked up people stranded on bridges and even at convenience stores.

Mack is making sure each Harvey refugee has a comfortable new bed and mattress to sleep on and everyone receives three hot meals each day. They also lounge around on expensive chairs and sofas while watching large-screen TV monitors.

Mack said the guests act more like hosts, volunteering to clean up the store and keep things neat. Many worked in the restaurants to help serve the food.

Mack knows the value of giving back to the community. When his large warehouse caught fire in 2009, his customers kept him in business during a tough time.

Here’s another tail from the city. 

Otis is a pretty special dog to people in Sinton, Texas, a small town of about 6,000 near Houston. He can go to the local Dairy Queen and get a hamburger or ice cream, a local lumberyard that sells dog food and visit the local H.E.B.

But the rest of the world didn’t know of his charming personality until a neighbor snapped a photo of Otis carrying a bag of dog food down a Hurricane Harvey rain-soaked street and posted the picture on Facebook. A social media storm ensued and Otis became a star.

Otis was being watched by Salvador Segovia, grandfather to the dog’s 5-year-old owner.

Many on social media thought Otis had escaped a flooded house with his bag of dog food, but they were incorrect. Otis has it together. The dog had grabbed the bag of dog food that is kept at the lumberyard for him and headed out, apparently just walking around town following the storm. He was taking his lunch, apparently not wanting a burger that day. Otis is a brown German shepherd mix with a dark snout, slightly droopy ears and slightly sad eyes, a look that seems to invite people to give him a treat. Yes, like the people on social media, the people in Sinton cannot resist Otis. Otis has it together.

Otis and Segovia eventually found each other following the hurricane and the social media and Segovia shared the story of a pretty special dog. In a story in the Houston Chronicle, Segovia said Otis is a familiar sight around town.

According to the story, Otis has been a big help calming Segovia’s grandson following the boy’s several hospital visits.

According to a Washington Post story (Otis does get around), giving back a little hope to some of the Hurricane Harvey victims is a way for Otis to give back, too. Segovia said a man driving in the area about five years ago said he was just going to leave the puppy somewhere unless Segovia took him.

‘‘I said, ‘No, no, no, leave him here, we’ll keep him,’” Segovia told the Post. ‘‘He left the dog here, and it became my grandson’s dog.’’

Otis likes to walk around town, as I said. He visits the local Dairy Queen, an antique mall, is allowed to lie down in front of the county courthouse and makes periodic visits to the local grocery. Otis is obviously too cool to know how awesome he is. But he kind of makes you believe that Mayberry still exists, where there was another Otis who was a familiar sight around town.

Mack and Otis made a tough week a little easier to handle.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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