By Pete Wurdock
Since when does a gas station/convenience store in the middle of the Upper Peninsula have almost 6,000 followers on Facebook?
When you realize it is Mater’s Stop-N-Go in Seney, you’ll understand.
Located at the eastern end of the Seney Stretch, Mater’s Stop-N-Go is a recommended stop – even if you don’t need gas. If for no other reason, go there to meet the owner, Matie Dunn.
“Mater’s” is a nickname derived from her birth name, Matie, which is pronounced like “Katie”. Around here, much like that famous TV bar in Boston, it seems like everyone knows her name.
One could say that her success is the result of her location, being that Mater’s is located in the center of all snowmobile trail heads. But the real reason is Matie herself.
“This is like home to me and I try to keep any existing negativity out,” said Matie, just minutes into our interview. That’s her philosophy.
Matie had two uncles with places similar to hers, and she always wanted to own one of her own. Years ago, she discovered that what is now her store was for sale while snowmobiling in the area and put in an offer. When her offer was declined, she put her dreams on the back burner. She continued to spend time in the area and a few years later, the business was back up for sale. It had become a foreclosed property, and Matie made an offer.
It was accepted the next day, and she hit the ground running.
The building needed a lot of attention, but Matie rolled up her sleeves and got to work.
Matie has put her heart and soul into her place, and it shows.
In the largest area of the store, she sells beer and wine, pop, smoked meats, cheese, premade sandwiches, personal care items, cleaning supplies, and a variety of other items including a peach salsa that flies off the shelving in the summer.
She will begin offering breakfast sandwiches after Christmas and will soon introduce the Mater Bratwurst; a one-of-a-kind sausage custom made specifically for her store.
There are beautifully hand-crafted tables that she built herself for when customers want to sit and enjoy a beverage or food or have a friendly conversation. There’s also a small hardware section. Mater’s offers bait – corn, apples, beets and carrots – in addition to selling DNR licenses.
Matie recently renovated the part of the store that used to be her office. It is now a gift shop, paneled with with old barn wood that creates a cozy, country store feel. It is like a Cracker Barrel gift shop where she sells shirts, hats, earrings, knives, lotions, cabin décor and more.
“I want to support every little enterprise because people do that for me,” Matie adds.
People are often giving her things they think would look good in her store, like pelts and deer mounts, and she gladly accepts them. Those gifts add to the rustic and inviting decor.
She’s at her store from open to close almost every day, except during slower days. Then you can find her cleaning and managing cabins, cutting grass, or taking odd jobs – as so many Yoopers do when the tourist season slows down.
Mater’s Stop-N-Go sees a lot of regular visitors who come for the summer, color tours, hunting season, or the winter, and they are an extended family to her. Observing Matie with her customers makes it clear that she was made for this business. Her warmth and personality brings people back.
“I can attest that when I’m working and she’s off doing whatever, everyone who comes in asks me ‘Where is Matie?’” said store employee Karen Abson. “She is missed when she’s not here.”
Karen knew of Matie before coming to work at the store, but after Karen lost her husband, she began to spend a lot of time at home.
The two women have since adopted each other. Karen says working at Mater’s gives her a purpose again.
“I wasn’t going to let her just hide in her house,” Matie said. “She began helping me with my orders, so I slowly started letting her ring up sales until she was comfortable enough doing it on her own.”
As for those Facebook followers, they’re really listening. Matie likes to keep them informed, especially on trail conditions during the winter. Trail groomers send pictures for her to post on her Facebook page and she offers them a free drink when they come in.
Mater’s is also a bear processing station. Matie had 58 bears checked in this year, the second most in the UP.
From time to time, Matie gets offers for the store but always declines them because this is her life. It is the visual story of her hard work, and a place that feels like home.
“If a person was a store,” she said, “this is me to a tee.”
Mater’s Gas and Go is located at 1545 West M 28 in Seney, MI.