By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- It's been a tough few months for the green in Canfield.
The grass has had trouble surviving because of record-high temperatures and a lack of rain, and what should be a lush green lawn is instead marked by patches of light brown.
John Davis can sympathize.
On Monday, Davis permanently closed the Koffee Korner, a coffee shop on Lisbon Street he had owned and operated since 1996. The shop was across the street from the green.
Davis put blame for the closing on both the economy and what he called a lack of "progressive thinking" by local officials.
He said officials discourage businesses from moving into the area by limiting parking near the green and enforcing the city's sign ordinance.
The sign ordinance prevents some businesses from advertising near the sidewalk, Davis said.
"The city of Canfield has been unfriendly toward business to say the least," he said. "They need some progressive thinking around here."
Most of the retail stores around the Canfield green are in two shopping plazas a few hundred yards apart on North Broad Street.
The rest of the green is home to professional offices, banks and some empty storefronts separated by parking lots or streets.
The Koffee Korner's neighbors included an advertising firm and an empty building owned by Farmers National Bank.
Davis said he thinks "progressive thinking" could help the green area become more like Hudson or Chagrin Falls, two Northeast Ohio communities with popular shopping districts. The main commercial street in Chagrin Falls is lined with chains like Starbucks and Bath and Body Works as well as locally owned shops.
Davis added that by helping to establish new retail shops in Canfield, local officials could reduce the tax burden on residents while also increasing the number of customers in the area for current businesses.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, the main commercial street in Chagrin Falls was busy with people browsing through shops or waiting for tables at one of several small restaurants. A line had formed outside a country store selling ice cream and caramel corn.
Picadilly Parlour owner Kim Hoover said she'd welcome the development of a Chagrin Falls-like businesses district near the Canfield green. She noted that the green is empty on most weekends.
Picadilly Parlour is a Victorian tea room and gift shop across the street from the green. Hoover said the business has survived by catering to customers from inside and outside the Mahoning Valley.
She added, however, that her customers find there's little to do in Canfield after they leave her shop.
"I just feel bad. I always have to send them to other towns," Hoover said.
Frank Paden, the president of Farmers National Bank, also said he'd like to see more small businesses move into the area around the green. The main office of the bank is on South Broad Street across from the green.
The bank also owns two vacant buildings on South Broad Street that it plans to demolish to make space for a two-story addition to its office.
Paden noted that, "if you come around here at 5 p.m., this place is pretty quiet."
A matter of concern
Both Hoover and Paden also said, however, that they weren't sure if the area around the green includes enough vacant property to accommodate growth. The largest space available for development near the green appears to be a vacant lot that lies between the Mahoning County Court plaza and the post office on North Broad Street.
Davis added that he didn't think city residents would welcome new retail stores along the green.
Barbara Fisher, who has lived in the city for 39 years, said most city residents use the green area for picnics, not shopping.
"I'm not sure they care if there's not a lot of commercial [business]," she said. Fisher also expressed concern that additional retail development could lead to "trappings of tourism" such as increased traffic and shoppers who didn't understand that Canfield also was a residential area.
Davis said he thinks the attitudes of residents like Fisher are often expressed at the ballot, where they continue to re-elect officials who are "unfriendly towards business."
Canfield Mayor Lee Frey, however, stressed that he thinks the city is doing what it can to encourage business development.
"I'm not sure what [Davis] wanted us to do," he said.
Frey said Davis hasn't attended a city council meeting to express his concerns. He added that though he was saddened by the closing of the Koffee Korner, he hopes that in the near future a new business will open where Davis once served up mocha.
Davis "is a fine person, and he operated a nice business," Frey said. "Hopefully, we can get someone in who's more successful."