As the sun burned to a heat index of 107 degrees, a man lying on the hot concrete asked for help. His words met no response. Hours went by.
Mattie Canzater spotted him from her building.
“I watched so many people pass,” she said. “I looked at him, and I said, ‘Sir, can I help you?'”
She invited him inside Mattie’s Thrift Store and offered him a cold bottle of water and a cloth to wash his face. They talked. She bought him a meal and asked him about his situation. Once he was finished, he made his way across the street.
And he's crossed back every day since to express his gratitude.
According to Mattie, her thrift store’s purpose isn’t just to sell inventory.
It’s to bless others.
“I'm not packed every day with 40, 50, 100 people. I’m not, and I'm okay with that. It would be a good thing, but that's not what it's about. It's about the ones that God chose to be on my path to come in and be blessed,” she said.
Her 8,400-square-foot building first opened its doors July 13, 2019. Rather than relying on donations, Mattie handpicks her items from storage auctions, private estate sales and other thrift stores.
She’s “about excellence” in the items she brings into the store, her son Alonzo Canzater said. While customers won’t find a $20 mattress with stains on it, they might find a bed valued at $3000 on sale for $1200.
“If you want junk, don’t come here. If you want bed bugs, don’t come here. If you want smell, stains or roaches, don’t come here,” Mattie said. “Now if you want something that’s beautiful, that’s nice, that’s reasonable, I got everything you need.”
Robert Canzater, another of Mattie’s five children, said the store caters well to college students because they can buy just about everything they may need in a single stop.
Mattie’s Thrift Store is preparing for its back-to-school sale the first week of August, in which it will “bless” a handful of students in need with laptops, tablets and other school supplies. Some parents will also receive care packages with hand sanitizer, tissues, paper towels and more. Hard times are what got her where she is today, Mattie said. She knows what it feels like to have nothing.
Mattie was once homeless, living out of a U-Haul she used for yard sales. She had to give up her home after developing double pneumonia and discovering it was infested with mold. Her family had no idea.
But homelessness wasn’t the extent of her struggles. She’s suffered from three strokes. She’s been projected from her car during an accident. She’s watched her teeth uproot during a bout of Bell’s palsy. Mattie was “ashamed” of herself.
“I love everybody, but the problem was, I didn't love myself. I wasn't taught how to love myself,” she said. “I was taught how to love others, not myself.”
Once she worked up the funds to purchase a one-bedroom apartment, she said she was “transformed.” Despite the hardships, she found peace with herself and with God. She learned to let go of the pain.
“I have never seen that woman give up,” Robert said. “I wonder, like, where do you get your script from?”
Mattie decided to meet with Alonzo, and together they made a business plan. Alonzo contacted the landlord for the building that Mattie’s Thrift Store now occupies, and they were given four rent-free months to get her business up and running.
Mattie never saw herself owning a thrift store, but she said she is using the opportunity to help others in need. That's why she continues to feed, clothe and talk to the homeless she finds sleeping on the loading dock outside, and that's why she hosted monthly raffles to furnish the homes of people in need.
It's what makes her happy.
“I look at myself every day, and I am, I can honestly say that I'm proud of myself,” she said. “That's something I couldn't have said two years ago. I am proud of Mattie.”