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Canton merchants form association, say downtown needs more economic focus

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CANTON — A group of Main Street business owners have banded together to form the Canton Merchants’ Association because they say there has been a lack of focus on economic development in the downtown.

Rainbow L. Crabtree, owner of Nature’s Storehouse, 21 Main St., told the village Board of Trustees on Monday night that in the coming weeks the group will work to create an action plan to make Canton a destination town.

“As the merchants of downtown Canton, we feel that there has been a lack of focus on economic development in the village,” Ms. Crabtree said. “In order to survive, and more importantly thrive, Main Street needs foot traffic.”

During the past few years, the community has invested in a variety of beautification and riverfront revitalization projects such as the creation of Heritage Park.

In addition, the Main Street reconstruction project that was completed in the fall resulted in improved sidewalks and intersections that make downtown more accommodating to bike and foot traffic.

“These projects were necessary and have contributed to quality of life in Canton, but there is a missing piece,” Ms. Crabree said. “In order to take full advantage of the riverfront parks and recreational areas in Canton as a means of boosting our economy, we need a solid, vibrant downtown with a variety of shops and eateries.”

The merchants would like the village and town to work with their association in developing a plan, she said.

Canton Economic Development Director Linda M. McQuinn said she has been working to bring more businesses to the community, partly by helping them get access to capital through the Canton revolving loan fund. Since the fund was created in 2007, she said, seven businesses have received money to open or expand.

“I’m currently working with several businesses to bring them into Canton,” she said. “There are things in the wings.”

Mrs. McQuinn said she was aware the merchants’ association was being created, but she has not been asked to participate in it.

“I think it’s a great idea. I’d certainly be happy to work with them if they wanted me to,” she said.

Ms. Crabtree submitted a letter to trustees that identified five other members of the merchants’ association: Dr. Adam Jaffe, a Main Street optometrist; Erin Alguire of Sposa Bella dress shop; John Gray of Gray & Gray Certified Public Accountants; Sylvia Kingston of Josie’s Pizza; and Marilyn Mintener, The Pear Tree.

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