How this Matthews thrift store shapes lives


 In October SHARE Charlotte’s Spotlight Series focuses on local organizations providing support, care, education and advocacy for our neighbors living with disabilities in an effort to #CelebrateAbilities.

Downtown Matthews is becoming quite the destination spot. As a very-near-to-Matthews resident for 12 years, it’s been interesting to see the sleepy area blossom almost overnight with Carolina Beer Temple, Seaboard, Temple Mojo and Brakeman’s.

But the shop that impresses me the most is right on the corner of John and Trade in the heart of it all: ZABS Place.

ZABS Place is a thrift store and simply put, the shop takes one person’s trash and puts it for sale in hopes that it’ll become someone else’s treasure. Simple enough, right? But the store model is actually a metaphor for the real work being done within the walls of ZABS Place.

Founded in November 2014 by two couples, Rabbi Bentzion Groner and his wife Rochel Groner, and Charlie and Caren Gale, ZABS Place provides training and employment opportunities to young adults with special needs.

“We believe there is potential in everything and everyone,” said Bentzion Groner.

The Gales’ son, Jonathan, is on the autism spectrum and for years was active in the Friendship Circle of Charlotte for special needs children (which is run by the Groners). But when Jonathan was about to age out of the Friendship Circle, his parents were left wondering what was next.

“The next step is typically a group home,” said Rochel Groner. “And that is like nails on a chalkboard. Group homes do not recognize or differentiate between talent and ability like we do at Friendship Circle.”

The Groners traveled to Franklin, Tenn., to visit Our Thrift Store, a shop that for ten years has employed young adults with disabilities. It was a solid business model and with the help of the Gales, ZABS Place was born.

Inside ZABS

“People have said, ‘there’s no way they can be productive,’” Bentzion Groner said. (“They” refers to “special friends,” a term used by Friendship Circle to talk about children and young adults with special needs).

Bentzion Groner added, “In the right environment and with the right people, everyone has talents and anyone can be brought out of their shells. It’s so important to create the right environment.”

In addition to the brick and mortar shop, ZABS Place operates online at eBay and Etsy, employing young adults in the Charlotte area with special needs who stock shelves, write item descriptions and even create upcycled treasures.

Don’t worry about donating items. ZABS has plenty of inventory. But feel free to stop in and shop!

ZABS Place:  100 N Trade St.

Photos courtesy of Addie Rising and Cara Anderson


  1. ZABS Place is a shining star in our community and we are so grateful to the Groner’s for all they do to help the rest of us understand and help fulfill the potential of our special friends. Go check it out for yourself — it’s a fantastic place!!


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