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Volunteers rescue people using an air boat from their flooded homes along Beamer Road in Houston, TX on Sunday, Aug 27, 2017.
Volunteers rescue people using an air boat from their flooded homes along Beamer Road in Houston, TX on Sunday, Aug 27, 2017.

Image: The Washington Post/Getty Images

If you live in Houston, you know Jim McIngvale—or rather, “Mattress Mack.” As local businessmen go, he’s among the most recognizable thanks to the local TV ads for his Gallery Furniture stores.

Those stores are now serving a new role—emergency shelters for families in Houston driven from their homes by flood waters.

Gallery Furniture is one of many local businesses chipping in to help people in their time of need. Texas, and in particular Houston, are home to plenty of regional businesses. Many of these companies have close community ties.

McIngvale’s stores are particularly well suited to the situation. They’re massive warehouses filled with beds and furniture, the kind that can only exist in a place like Houston, where space is plentiful to the point of excess.

HEB Grocery stores are just one of those companies. HEB has more than 150 locations in Texas, with its history going back to 1905 in Kerrville, Texas. It’s now one of the biggest privately held companies in the U.S., with members of its founding family still running the business.

The company has sent its mobile kitchens to Houston to provide meals for people, as well as other services, including pharmacies and ATMs.

Other local business have provided temporary shelter, though plenty more have been forced to close due to the ongoing flooding. 

Whataburger, a local fast food chain that is a staple for Houstonians, announced that all of their stores had closed (there’s more than 55 in Houston alone). It’s the kind of thing that drives home just how widespread and disastrous the flooding has been.

The company said that some restaurants flooded so quickly that employees became trapped inside and needed emergency help.

“Some of our Family Members were unable to leave our restaurants because floodwaters rose so quickly. We are working diligently with first responders as well as other resources to move them to safety,” the company wrote in an announcement about its store closing.

Whataburger draws a similar loyalty to other regional burger chains like In-N-Out, and is regarded as part of the local culture. Indeed, one of the company’s restaurants—to be more precise its sign—became a rallying cry on social media.

“Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,” one user posted on a photo of a tattered but still-standing sign.

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