Business owner Beth Bauman watches the community rebound from crippling challenges.
For many cities, the loss of a major manufacturing company in the heart of its downtown would have been fatal. Not in North Canton.
Eight years after the shuttering of the Hoover Co. plant, the city’s downtown still maintains its charm with its signature red brick sidewalks and buildings and decorative lamp posts, and remains home to a mix of new and long-established businesses—and in some cases new owners of long-standing businesses—along Main Street.
It may not be the bustling downtown it was at the height of the Hoover Co., but it’s far from the type of ghost town that can be found in other Rust Belt cities.
“It has not gone downhill like some places where the major business closes up and goes away,” said Beth Bauman, who owns Chestnut Hill Gifts. “People were upset (with Hoover’s closing) and people were sad, but it didn’t make people leave or make them feel impoverished. (Instead, they said), ‘All right, we’re going to do something else now.’ ”
As a business owner at various spots along Main Street for roughly 35 years, Bauman has witnessed North Canton—and its downtown merchants—withstand other challenges over the past three decades that crippled other towns.
The first major challenge came when the Belden Village mall opened in Jackson Township in 1970. Bauman—who originally was from Pennsylvania and moved to the city in the 1970s after marrying husband Bob, a third-generation Hoover Co. employee—wasn’t in North Canton when the mall first opened, but saw the aftermath.
“It took people away from Main Street,” she recalled. “The population that was loyal to the businesses here, pretty much stayed, but new people coming in, they just zoomed right by to the mall.”
The next—more lethal—challenge came with the development of The Strip retail shopping area in 1996.
“That probably put more people out of business than anything,” she said. “The mall was like us, but bigger. The Strip was like us, but bigger and way cheaper.”
She said downtown businesses also lost many Jackson Township customers who didn’t want to navigate through the heavy traffic on Portage Street.
Bauman said increasingly more customers are coming to her shop for gifts, art, jewelry and interior decorations because they are tired of replacing cheap, imported products every few years. Main Street also has attracted several new businesses, including restaurants and coffee shops, as well as welcomed new owners of long-standing businesses, such as Emily Grable of Hazel and Rye Artisan Baking Co. and Gail Jones, who took over The Cake Lady with her daughter Misty Brown.
Bauman hopes the new apartments and retail shops planned at the former Hoover complex will add new life—and new foot traffic—to downtown.
“Maybe the Hoover District can bring the center of town weight again,” she said hopefully.
Maple Street Commerce, which has owned the former Hoover factory since 2008, plans to construct roughly 130 apartments, along with retail and office space on the North Main Street side of the complex. Other service-oriented and industrial tenants already have moved into other areas of the complex, now known as the Hoover District. The apartments are expected to be completed this year.
“Boss” Hoover statue
A life-size bronze sculpture of William H. “Boss” Hoover, founder of the Hoover Co. and North Canton’s first mayor, resides in Bitzer Park on the southeast corner of the square. The “Walk with the boss” monument, created by sculptor Don Lundstrom, depicts a bespectacled Hoover walking hand-in-hand with an inquisitive boy.
North Canton Community Building YMCA
For more than 90 years, the Community Building has served as the hub of community activity in North Canton. The first Community Building opened in 1923, becoming one of the first family-oriented YMCAs in the country. Today, the North Canton Community Building YMCA is one of the busiest branches of the YMCA of Central Stark County. It annually hosts one of the largest Fourth of July running races in the region, serves as the home site for Hoover High School’s swim team and is the meeting spot for community Bible study groups, book clubs and young leader organizations.
North Canton Public Library and Little Art Gallery
More than just books: two years after the library was built, the Little Art Gallery opened in a second-floor room. Now celebrating its 85th year, the gallery’s permanent collection housed at the library at has grown to include more than 200 pieces. The oldest is Dogwood Study II, created in 1916 by Rena Pottorf and acquisitioned in 1946. The gallery opens a new fine-art exhibit every four to six weeks and provides public art classes for students of all ages.
North Canton Veterans Memorial
The brick memorial in Bitzer Park features plaques honoring those who fought in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East conflicts including the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its centerpiece is the 7-foot-by-6-foot plaque inscribed with the more than 830 names of Hoover Co. employees who served the country during World War II. Standing to the north of the brick memorial is a statue of a saluting soldier that was made by North Canton resident and sculptor Don Lundstrom.
Chestnut Hill Gifts
Owner Beth Bauman uses every nook and cranny of the green house to display her colorful array of lamps, jewelry, scarves, handbags, pottery and local art.
A former closet of the home, built in 1901, now displays jewelry and greeting cards. In the bathroom, you’ll find packages of vibrant-colored print paper napkins, as well as a woven shawl from a company that supports artisans in Tibet, Nepal and India, hanging on a shower rod. There are no mass-produced items here. Bauman, who has been in business for roughly 35 years, curates from a variety of independent sources, including local and Ohio artists and companies supporting women abroad.
Artists Gallery Yarn
Even if you know little about knitting, you likely will feel inspired to try when you step inside the Artists Gallery Yarn shop. The walls of the shop display the brightly colored yarn as well as recently knitted items, and at a table near the entrance likely will sit long-term knitters talking about the day’s news. Want to get in on the craft? Classes and tools for knitting, felting, spinning and weaving are available. And for those new to yarn, owner Carol Markley also offers help—for free.
The Cake Lady
One of the most popular cake shops in the county easily could be overlooked along busy Main Street. The diminutive shop looks empty from the street, but once inside, the glass cases of vibrantly colored cutout cookies and cakes clue you in to what all the buzz is about … and then you taste the icing, and you know you’ve arrived at The Cake Lady.
For years, customers have come from across the county and beyond for the rich, moist cakes topped with the shop’s signature creamy, airy icing that tastes like a cross between whipped cream and buttercream.
Christmas Sing and Tree Lighting
For as many years as most can remember, residents have gathered downtown each year to sing holiday carols and watch the Christmas tree lighting. This year’s event is set for December 6. Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to make their usual appearance, arriving on a city firetruck.