19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said “What does not kill you makes you stronger.” That saying perfectly sums up the life of Mattie Canzater, owner of Mattie’s Thrift Store in Columbia. Mattie Canzater is a 1984 graduate of Spring Valley High School. She grew up feeling unloved and unwanted, spending time in foster homes. “I had a rough childhood,” she recalled. “I started having kids. I just wanted my own, just something I could love.” Eventually, she became a single mother of five children, living on government assistance.” Mattie got a job working as a caregiver in a nursing home. But it didn’t improve her lot in life. “They only gave me $112 a month for five children, and fathers didn’t want to pay child support,” she recalled. “The money you made from working, they cut from your government assistance.” Mattie had to be creative in order to survive. “One day I went to the Salvation Army and bought a few things,” she recalled. “My step mom used to always take us to yard sales, and it kind of stayed with me. I started dressing my kids from yard sales and thrift stores. And they had the finest of everything. Everything the other kids had that they paid all these hundred dollars for and stuff, my kids got for like $5 or $10 and they were just as good.
“So when my kids grew out of their stuff, I decided to have a yard sale. At my first yard sale, I made $500, and it blew my mind. And it was just two tables. I got a job at the Salvation Army, started buying stuff from the store and having yard sales to pay my light bill, water bill and rent.” Little did she know that something that she did on the side to make ends meet would eventually become her career choice. A series of health problems made hosting yard sales even more important. “I had three strokes and I thought my life was over because nobody would give me a job because I was high-risk,” Mattie recalled. “So I went to yard sales and just start accumulating nice things. And then I started doing research to find out the value of them. I would advertise my yard sales three or four days before the sale, and I would sell out. I would make like $1700 and $2,000 just from the yard sale. And I started selling dinners with my yard sale. I was like ‘This is so easy.” Mattie opened a thrift store in Ridgeway, SC. She ran the store for six years. She closed it because of a snake infestation. “We had so many rattlesnakes in that building that it was unreal,” Mattie said. “We found one that was bigger than a 20-ounce soda bottle and as long as a table. We found eggs in the building, but we never found the momma. It was time to go.” Mattie moved to Columbia and opened another store. But health problems caused her to shut it down. “I ended up getting double pneumonia in both of my lungs. I had never smoked. The house that I was living in was full of mold behind walls and I didn't know it,” she said. Mattie went back to being a caregiver. “I became a caregiver, which I've been doing now for the last 28 years,” Mattie said. “I'm just helping people because I was one of those children that nobody wanted.”
Through her adversity, Mattie turned to her faith to sustain her. “I met this young lady, she's deceased now, named Brenda Pearson,” Mattie recalled. “She taught me how to be a woman, and she taught me how to be a mother. Just because you have children, don't make you a mother. I didn't have a mother in my life. My mother didn't want her children -- she abandoned us. Brenda Pearson taught me how to be a woman, how to be the mother I am and how to love me.” Ms. Pearson taught her what Christian faith was all about. “I noticed she went to church all the time,” Mattie recalled. “She taught me to have a relationship with God. She taught me how to pray, and to just give whatever it is to God. So how are you going to give something to somebody that's not even there? I was just angry. I had so much pain from my past. The question was always why my mom didn't want me and why my dad didn’t want me. What was wrong with me? I didn't want to live. And that’s when I met Ms. Pearson.” Even though Mattie continued to face very difficult challenges, her faith helped her to get through them. “In 2018, I was homeless. I was living in a U-Haul truck and nobody knew that – not my kids, not my parents. Nobody. “I remember my Godmother, Miss Brenda, telling me that just when you think you're at your worst, God is doing something marvelous in your life. Your breakthrough is right around the corner, so just hold on.” To raise money, Mattie went back to hosting yard sales. “I went to a storage auction and bought two units,” she recalled. “I had a three-day yard sale – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I made $1700 the first day and $2,000 the second day. Out of those two units, I made about $6,000.” But she still didn’t have a place to stay. “One day I was walking in the rain and I saw this little apartment. I said, ‘Lord, how can I get this apartment? I have the money. But I can't prove my income.’ I paid the $25 fee. I went to see the apartment. And I claimed it in Jesus name. Mattie talked to the landlord and explained that she had no regular income or credit. “He said this is against everything I stand for. You know we have to prove these things,” Mattie recalled. “I said just give me a chance, and I won’t let you down.”
Mattie got the apartment. “It cost me a little more for the deposit because of no credit or income,” she recalled. “I had no power. I didn't have nothing. But I did have a roof over my head. I had a start.” Mattie was in a long relationship with a man from a dysfunctional family. She ended up taking care of his mother until she passed. Then the man’s sister needed someone to take care of her, and the family refused to help. Despite the fact that Mattie only had a one-bedroom apartment, she cleaned the sister up, moved her in and took care of her. “That’s what the Spirit told me to do,” Mattie recalled. “I did it because someone reached out and blessed me when I had nothing. As a young girl and as a woman, there was always an angel looking out for me.” The sister needed full-time care. Her family members wanted to put her in a home, but the sister didn’t want to live in a nursing home. She asked Mattie to take care of her. Neither Mattie nor the woman’s family knew that she had some financial resources. She was so grateful to Mattie for helping her out during her time of crisis that she purchased a home for her and Mattie to live in and offered to get Mattie a car to drive her around in.
“This was nothing but God,” Mattie said. “That was the reason why I was with her brother. God had me in a place and I had to be there until he said I had to move.”
When the brother and his siblings found out about the arrangement, they went behind her back and tried to get control of her assets. But the sister refused, noting that Mattie had taken care of her mother and her brother, and was the only person who helped her.
Now that she was back on her feet, Mattie decided to open a thrift store to help people in need. She opened Mattie’s Thrift Store on July19, 2019 in the North Side Plaza on North Main Street in Columbia. “I sell new and used items,” Mattie says. “We sell home décor, furniture, bedroom, living room, dining room sets; children clothing, adult clothing for men and women. We sell anything you need to start a new life and fill your new place. This is a one-stop shop.” Mattie is proud of the fact that she is able to help people in need, as well as provide jobs. The majority of her staff is family members – her children, nieces and nephews. “What I do here is my ministry,” Mattie said. “I donate a 26-foot U-Haul truck of clothing to cooperative ministries for people in need. I am signing a contract with the Orangeburg Parole Board to provide clothes to people that have just got out of prison who have been locked up for a long time. They have a program where they are teaching them how to apply for jobs and get a second chance. I also donate a complete house of products to people in need – mostly people who have been burned out. They can only come to me through the cooperative ministry or a church of someone I know, and they have to have proof. Pretty much every day, I am giving. That’s all I know is how to give and love people for who they are. Because I know what it is like to have nothing.” Mattie says the store is a place of love and healing. “I love everybody that comes in the door. You may buy a piece of merchandise, but this is a spiritually-connected place. This is a place of God. I share my testimony with everybody that wants to hear it,” she said. “Today, I am living for two people – God and myself. I asked God for a second chance to get it right. I know that I made some mistakes in my life. And I am thankful for all my mistakes, because that is how I got to where I am today.” Mattie’s Thrift Store is located at 6319 North Main Street in Columbia. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is closed on Sundays. To learn more, call the store at (803) 250-7988 or visit the Mattie’s Facebook page.