She grew up roughly 90 minutes north of Canton.
Yet Tonja Marshall admits she knew very little about Stark County or even the Pro Football Hall of Fame until she enrolled at the University of Mount Union and met her future husband, Marcus, who is a GlenOak High School graduate.
“I was surprised to grow up so close to Canton, and even the Pro Football Hall of Fame wasn’t necessarily top of mind,” said Marshall, a Painesville, Ohio, native who earned a degree in public relations from Ursuline College. “It was surprising to me to find out so much was going on so close to me that I wasn’t familiar with.”
Marshall, who made Stark County her home in 2002, keeps those initial impressions in mind as she promotes Stark County to the rest of Ohio and beyond in her role as executive vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Canton.
“To this day, it’s a still hump for us to get over,” said Marshall, who said she still sometimes must remind her family in Painesville that she lives in Canton, not Akron.
Marshall’s first job in Canton was with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where she spent eight years working in jobs that ranged from an admissions and operations assistant to travel and tourism marketing specialist.
She joined the staff at Visit Canton, also known as the Stark County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, in 2011 as the agency’s sports promotions manager and then as its sport tourism director.
She was promoted to vice president of marketing and communications in 2017, and now her duties touch every aspect of marketing, from overseeing the agency’s website, search engine marketing, social media, its visitor information center materials, its travel guide, as well as managing the agency’s advertising campaigns.
Marshall said she loves being on the frontline of helping Canton and Stark County grow, develop and transform into a bigger and better tourist destination.
“I love getting engaged in the whole community and knowing there is so much more opportunity in this community,” she said. “We’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential for being a great destination for tourism.”
Outside of the office, Marshall serves on the boards of Leadership Stark County and the Ohio Travel Association. She also is past president of the Eric Snow Family YMCA. But you’ll most often find her cheering on one of her three children: Jordan, a junior at GlenOak High School; Janiya, an eighth-grader at Oakwood Middle School; and Marcus Jr., a fourth-grader at Avondale Elementary.
MARSHALL’S LOCAL FAVORITES:
Favorite place to see live music:
“My best concert experiences have been at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The press box rooftop sky terrace wins my vote for best seat in the house.”
Favorite place to take the kids:
The park. “We’re lucky to have so many Stark County parks and connected trails. It’s nice to get everyone unplugged, and you can’t beat the price!”
Favorite lunch spot:
“I get soup from Conestoga almost every day at work. Street Side is definitely another lunchtime favorite.”
Favorite entertainment spot:
“Does the golf course count? Spring is here, and I’m super excited for golf season.”
CEO or business owner you admire:
“I really admire entrepreneurs like Barb Abbott and Cathy Wyatt. There are a lot of fierce women running businesses and organizations in this community, and that inspires me.”
Favorite thing to do:
“Being around my family just relaxing, laughing and enjoying time together. Pizza, wings and a game night is my idea of a great time.”
Most memorable spot:
“Mount Union’s campus holds so many memories for me. I spent my freshman year of college there and met my husband.”
Favorite date night:
“A good date night consists of a good meal, tasty adult beverages and a dance floor!”
Favorite place to shop:
“I enjoy the local open-air markets like Downtown Canton Flea, the 720 Market and Hartville MarketPlace.”
Favorite spot to grab a drink:
The Martini Lounge at Market Square.
Favorite spot to workout:
“I’m not great about working out, but hot yoga at Yoga Strong is definitely my favorite.”
Canton Palace Theatre. “It’s beautiful, historic and there’s always something going on there.”
Basil Asian Bistro. “I have never made a bad selection there, delicious every time, every menu item.”
Favorite volunteer opportunity:
Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week. “The energy throughout the community during that time of year is amazing to be part of.”
Most unique or unusual product:
“I was impressed to discover how many products are made in Stark County, and I love food, so the food manufacturers are the most interesting to me: chips at Shearer’s, Mid’s pasta sauce, Waggoner Chocolates, Brewster Cheese, etc.”
Favorite coffee shop:
“Carpe Diem and Muggswigz are both favorites.”