Doug & Jess Bennett give their local picks

It wasn’t necessarily love at first sight for Jess and Doug Bennett. “He said to me once at the office that I was the female version of him and he hated me,” said the former Jess Andreae who grew up in rural Westfield Township in Medina County and moved to Stark County to attend Walsh University. “But I like to think of that as the 40-year-old man version of pulling my pigtails.”

It wasn’t necessarily love at first sight for Jess and Doug Bennett.

“He said to me once at the office that I was the female version of him and he hated me,” said the former Jess Andreae who grew up in rural Westfield Township in Medina County and moved to Stark County to attend Walsh University. “But I like to think of that as the 40-year-old man version of pulling my pigtails.”

The couple shocked unsuspecting co-workers when they announced they were engaged after more than a year of dating. They likely surprised even more people when they decided to pair their love for each other with their love for downtown Canton by hosting their wedding—and every event leading up to it—all in the city’s center. They were the first traditional couple to be married in a gallery at the Canton Museum of Art.

“Eleven years ago, downtown wasn’t what it is now,” said Doug, who grew up on a farm in Louisville but whose parents are McKinley High School graduates. “Now, couples do it (get married downtown) all the time.”

What the couple loves the most about downtown Canton is its authenticity.

“The businesses are not franchised; they’re not national chains,” Doug said. “You talk to the owners when you come to the businesses downtown. … People who haven’t been downtown in 20 years need to stop criticizing downtown and give it a chance and let other people come and experience it on their own.”

Since their wedding in 2007, the couple also has continued to invest in downtown Canton professionally.

They own Jab Advertising, downtown’s only full-service advertising agency at 203 Market Avenue S, Suite 212. The company, which began in 2011, specializes in small business marketing. Jess, former director of marketing and events at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and GateHouse Media Ohio’s former vice president of the magazine division, joined Doug, a 20-plus-year professional marketer in Stark County, at Jab last year.

The Bennetts also are part owners of Print & Press Shop & Studios, which they opened in May 2016 with Little Chicago Clothing Co. at 429 Fourth Street NW. They also operate Letterpress Jess, a letterpress printing studio and workshop located inside Print & Press, whose stationery, art prints, posters, invitations and more are sold at maker markets and craft shows all over the country. Early this month, Letterpress Jess will debut its line at the National Stationery Show in New York City.

Doug & Jess Bennett’s local favorites:

Local restaurant:
Lucca Downtown. “Josh Schory, Lucca’s chef/owner, is Canton’s own ‘Top Chef’ with all the awards he’s won. It’s farm-to-table fare with flair, always delicious, and we always get great service from our favorite server Jimmy McFarren.”

Jess: George’s Lounge. “Love the ‘Geourmet’ burgers … and grilled cheeses, fried pickles and craft beer list. The list goes on.”

Favorite coffee shop:
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop. “It’s the ‘Cheers’ of coffee shops where everybody knows your name and your drink. And if you don’t know what you want, owner Cathy Wyatt will whip up something delicious.”

Favorite thing to do:
Attend Kiko auctions. “Nowhere in the state is as rich with estate auctions as we are in Stark County, thanks to Kiko. And if an auction isn’t happening, Eric Jenior Appraisals & Liquidations usually has a quality tag sale to visit and find great buys.”

Most admired CEO or business owner:
Ben Biery of Biery Cheese. “It’s not his father’s cheese company, or his grandfather’s or even his great-grandfather’s. This fourth generation CEO is all about growth by innovation to ensure the company stays competitive and successful for the next generation of Bierys.”

Jess: Tony Ly, owner of Basil Asian Bistro in Canton, Wooster and Hamilton; Quarter Up Bar Arcade and Sushi Katsu in Akron; and Ramen Katsu in Green. “The creative energy it takes to open and sustain one restaurant from scratch is staggering, but five is something truly exceptional.”

Most memorable spot:
The area surrounding downtown’s ice skating rink. “I’ve never been skating there—too clumsy—but my favorite wedding photos were taken underneath the Arcade Coneys sign and beneath the arch of the old St. Francis Hotel. The moments just after saying ‘I do’ 11 years ago are still today some of my favorites ever downtown.”

Doug: “My most memorable spot will be the downtown ice skating rink the day Jessica goes skating there for the very first time.”

Favorite spot to grab a drink:
Fronimo’s Downtown. “It’s been fun to watch our friend Star—Startender!—create such a great place everyone loves. There’s always terrific beers on tap, unique cocktails and super small plates.”

Jess: The Auricle. “I was worried I wouldn’t like the new location as well as the old. I was wrong! Absolutely the best gin and tonics!”

Favorite lunch spot:
Hazel & Rye Artisan Bakery. “It’s right across from our office downtown, and everything is fresh made daily or made to order. Plus, there’s always a sweet treat to finish a great sandwich or salad.”

Jess: Thatsa Wrapp. “They might be known for their wraps, but Jeff & Co. never judge me for ordering a plate of housemade Caprese potato chips with extra dip for lunch.”

Favorite place to shop locally:
The new Goodwill Thrift store in North Canton.

Jess: Laura of Pembroke. “Love me some one-stop shopping, and this gorgeous shop has it all. “

Favorite event:
Doug and Jess:
Downtown Canton Flea. “We love being partners in this event, which will begin its fifth season of helping small businesses in 2019.”

Favorite volunteer opportunity:
Stark County Hunger Task Force. “When we’re hungry, we just go to the cupboard and grab something. But it’s not that way for everyone. SCHTF works to change that and keep cupboards stocked and bellies full so people can achieve their full potential in school or at work.”

Jess: YWCA Canton. “They make an immediate difference in the lives of homeless individuals and families in Stark County every day by providing emergency shelter, food, clothing—and hope.”

Most unique or unusual product found made in Stark County:
Family Fun Pools in Louisville. “It builds the most amazing water parks all over the world. I think every continent but one has at least one stunning water park built by them that includes everything from towering, twisting slides to bumper boats, wave pools, pools inside of pools and more. Plus, they can build in-ground pools in just about any unique shape imaginable.”

Favorite place to shop for gifts:
Arrowhead Vintage & Handmade Goods. “Our good friends own this little gem in the downtown Canton Arts District. You never know what you might find!”

Favorite theater:
Canton Palace Theatre. “I won Dancing with the Canton Stars in 2014 on a stage that entertainment legends have performed on for nearly 100 years. It’s hard to comprehend it didn’t collapse under the weight of my two left feet.”

Favorite place to take your kids/grandkids:
“While we ourselves are child-free, we can’t wait to take our adorable nephew Caleb to Discover World at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.”