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Charleston Black Business Icon Clarence ‘Don’t Turn Nobody Down’ McCants Passes
Published:
7/9/2014 2:25:06 PM


Clarence McCants
 
One of Charleston’s last notable 20th century Black businessmen, Clarence ‘Don’t Turn Nobody Down’ McCants, died July 1. McCants, 87, adopted the nickname ‘Don’t Turn Nobody Down’ as the front man for the Jewish-owned Metropolitan Furniture Company on King Street in downtown Charleston.

For over four decades McCants was the face of the business that sold clothing and furniture from 1962-2004. Though owned by the Kirshtein family, McCants was the man to talk to at the store which financed it’s clients’ purchases - hence the name ‘Don’t Turn Nobody Down’. The stout-built McCants, with ever-present cigar between his lips, earned a reputation for being stern, but fair and compassionate.

Born March 20, 1927, one of Isaiah’s and Gertrude Frasier McCants’ seven children, Sumter Street on the peninsula’s west side was home for McCants. He attended Charleston public schools and left Burke High School after 10th grade in 1945 to serve in the Army during World War II.

Returning to Charleston after the war, his daughter Audreyole McCants Parker notes that her father had been a painter “who could handle a brush”. He also was a skilled carpenter. But his lifelong friend former Charleston Sen. Herbert U. Fielding, describes McCants as “a darn good businessman”.

The two grew up together when racial segregation tested the mettle of self-employed Black entrepreneurs. Fielding said it was McCants’ business savvy that elevated the Kirshstein’s store into one of the city’s most popular and profitable.

McCants and Fielding were members of the now defunct Charleston Business and Professional Association, an organization of Black professionals. The pair often travelled together on association activities, Fielding recalls.

“Clarence was a likeable fella,” Fielding said Monday. “He was a fine fella and very friendly. But most of all, he was a darn good businessman.”

Another of McCants’ daughters, Cynthia Smalls, notes that her father also was a cook and for a short time owned a night club. McCants was a private person who valued time spent with family and close friends, she said. As he neared retirement McCants spent several hours daily at the old Brooks Restaurant on Morris Street, the Waffle House on Savannah Highway and Alex’s Restaurant on Savannah Highway. Like clockwork, McCants and several of his cronies met daily at the eateries to talk and socialize.

A former Burke baseball player and avid Atlanta Braves baseball fan, McCants preferred to listen to games on the radio. Baseball was as much his signature trademark as his powder blue Caddilac, Smalls said.

Smalls said her fondest memories of her father were the breakfasts he made for her and her brother before taking them to school. But others spoke of the deals he struck at Metropolitan Furniture. One lady said McCants approved her credit and sold her the furniture for her first apartment. Another man when he was down on his luck, recalled McCants telling him to pick a suit off the rack to wear to a funeral.

McCants never needed to hear ‘thank you’ because he loved people and he loved Charleston, Smalls said. “Charleston was his home and his heart,” she said.

McCants is survived by his former wives: Catherine S. Young and Mary S. Long, his children: Audreyole Parker, Cynthia Smalls and Clarence F. McCants, his sisters: Ester Burgess, Helen Williams and Erma Henry and his brother: Bernard McCants.

Visitor Comments
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Submitted By: Cynthia Smalls Submitted: 7/11/2014
Thank you so much for the wonderful article about my father. He was a very strong, pround man with a soft heart. I loved him and appreciated everything he did for me. He will truly be missed. My family and I are grateful to have had him in our lives. He truly was a big part of Charleston to so many people. Thank you so much.


 
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