Our Towns: Canfield Strives to Keep Its Character

CANFIELD, Ohio — When the village green was built, it was meant to mimic the feel of towns in New England. It was a place where farmers brought livestock to graze, townsfolk met for events and where businesses planted roots.

It was around this town center that Canfield grew, stretching out in all directions. To the west, industrial companies sprang up; to the east, commercial development moved in. North and south of town, a few smaller business set up shop.

“We’re proud of all the things happening here in Canfield,” says Mayor Bernie Kosar Sr. “We’re moving ahead nicely.”

Over the past year, he points out, his city has seen the arrival of a Dollar General and Advance Auto Parts and next year, Kosar says, he expects a new nursing home to open in Canfield Township, bringing 72 jobs to the area.

But what really stand out, the mayor says, are small businesses. His experience with Canfield’s business community began years before he moved to the city and was elected mayor.

“I lived in Boardman for 32 years and every single lawnmower I bought came from Western Auto here in Canfield. I always felt comfortable coming out to talk to them and, unfortunately, it’s not here anymore,” he relates. “We’re lucky to have those small and boutique types of businesses.”

Having the town green, he says, helps drive those boutique-type shops. Surrounding the green are stores such as Piccadilly Parlour – a teashop on the south side – Magnolia’s on the Green Salon and Village Quilts.

“I grew up in Canfield and there were stores and restaurants throughout town. A lot of that’s gone and evolved into other things,” says Claire Neff, owner of the quilt shop. “There are gems if you look for them. There are antiques stores, great restaurants and others, but you have to search them out.”

Helping Village Quilts, Neff adds, is her store’s clientele, many from outside the area.

“We have people stopping in from as far as Virginia or Nebraska. We have a pretty good presence on the Web, which makes us easy to find,” she says. “And there’s a group called Shop Hop, where quilt shops get together and put up a series of prizes as motivation for people to visit several shops. We get people from all over the state for that.”

Just a short walk from the city’s administrative offices, Janice Pattola, owner of From the Heart Floral & Gift, says that in her nine years in business, she’s seen businesses come and go, but the customer support from those who live nearby remains steady.

“The community has been very supportive. A lot of people will stop by and say, ‘I didn’t even know you were here,’ ” Pattola says.

“We don’t do much advertising. Most of it’s through word-of-mouth. I have a lot of friends in the community, so that helps drive business.”

Curiosity in what’s going on behind the meticulously decorated boutique storefronts helps, too, she notes.

“It’s a small town but the store is on a road with a lot of traffic, so people stop in to see what I have,” she says.

“There’s a lot of curiosity from people wanting to see not only what I have, but what I do.”

Keeping small businesses in Canfield is important for both the township and city, the mayor says.

About 20,000 cars pass through downtown Canfield every day, which already pushes the limits of what the area can handle. Were the town to add chain stores too close the green, the result would hurt not only the small businesses, but the community as a whole, Kosar says.

“Walmart wanted to build out here and we would see so much traffic coming through here that [the volume] would probably crush some of our small businesses here. People will stop at a small store here instead of driving six or seven miles to a big store,” he says.

Kosar continues with a story from before he ever set foot in the Mahoning Valley, when he was working for the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in Hudson, Ohio.

“It was a beautiful town. It was Canfield, although I didn’t know the comparison at the time. I was going to buy a home there, but it grew and grew and grew,” he relates. “Now, if you go there on a Saturday morning, there’s gridlock. I don’t want that for Canfield.”

Industrial companies have long had a home on the west side. Like most of the Valley, many point to its central location between Chicago and New York as a reason for growth. Mixed in with the aluminum plants and machining shops, LED3 – which makes and rents LED screens – is one of the newer and more tech-savvy companies on the U.S. Route 224 strip.

“The company has grown exponentially. We went from doing some favors for friends to doing some local projects and then General Motors came to us and asked us to help with a 40th anniversary celebration,” says LED3 opportunity development director Lynn Roman. “We’ve absolutely boomed here.”

The company recently installed a new scoreboard at the Canfield High School football field, one of its first local projects, something the company takes great pride in, Roman says.

“Canfield made this possible and enabled us to do this,” she says. “As far as the business we do in Canfield and [the Valley], that’s just starting.”

And pride in the community is something that’s evident throughout Canfield. From families sitting on the town green to the Canfield Cardinal logo adorning the backs of cars to people stopping before the historical markers in the town, it’s easy to tell that residents of Canfield love their city.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.