Charita Goshay: Reflecting on retail tailspin

Charita Goshay

Because Canton often gets kicked around like a third-string benchwarmer, people tend to take it a little more personally whenever the city loses a significant business.

The impending demise of Macy’s department store at Canton Centre Mall is not simply the latest chapter in that retail center’s slow-motion tailspin, but rather a reflection of how the working class is faring in places such as Canton, Ohio.

When the original Mellett Mall was built in 1965, Canton was a muscular little city. There was steady, good-paying work to be had at dozens of manufacturing plants and locally owned firms. Though the suburbs were burgeoning and beckoning, Mellett Mall held great appeal for the city’s blue-collar customers.

Bad joke

Then the jobs began to fall away. Rivulets of instability began to seep through once-proud neighborhoods. People who were taught from childhood that loyalty to the company would be rewarded with job security and pensions suddenly found themselves on the short end of what felt like a bad joke.

Multinational corporations gobbled up the places to which they dedicated half their lives, only to strip them of their assets and shut them down. It became a story that soon would repeat itself across the Midwest.

In America, if you want to know how a city is faring, take a stroll through its main shopping centers. As Canton’s economy atrophied, so did the number of retailers at Canton Centre Mall, which now has all the energy of a mausoleum.

Like some sort of boom-bust ghost town, one hand is not enough upon which to count the number of darkened storefronts. In a defunct food court, a baby grand piano sits unoccupied on an island of carpet. Black sheets of plastic shroud empty kitchens.

Maybe it started with the name change. Stripped from its connection to Don Mellett, a real-life, local hero, the mall’s ownership has changed hands more often than a square dancer.

People frequently yowl that “the city” should do something about Canton Centre. That’s not the government’s job. The only thing that will save such places is a new infusion of industry to provide jobs for people who patronize them. Helping to make that happen is the government’s job.

You did it

Thanks to your generosity, the Pleasant family enjoyed a Christmas they won’t soon forget. If you recall, the children, ages 2 to 14, lost their mother, Tracy, who was killed in their home on Nov. 27. Their father, Marcus, has been charged with murder.

Sheryl “Dottie” Pressley, Tracy Pleasant’s best friend, organized a benefit. The children got more than $3,000 in donations to help with living expenses and more gifts than they could open. While such largesse never will replace their mother, we hope the Pleasant children are encouraged by the fact that there still are good people in the world. Count yourselves among them.

Reach Repository writer Charita Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or e-mail