MELLETT MALL
Tuscarawas Street West and Whipple Avenue Southwest
Canton, Ohio

Canton's first shopping mall started out as a single level, open-air center, which opened for business in August 1965. It was located 2.5 miles west of the Central Business District, in the southwest quadrant of the city.

MELLETT MALL was developed by Mellett Homes, a consortium of residents of a World War II-era housing development. This had been named in honor of Canton's gang-busting newspaperman, Donald Ring Mellett, who had been gunned-down by the mob in 1926.

The property owners pooled their assets, formed a corporation, and built the mall on 28.6 acres of the former residential project. The original center was anchored by a 2-level (158,200 square foot) J.C. Penney, which was dedicated May 26, 1965.

Charter stores and services included Gray Drug, Fanny Farmer Candies, Holiday Shoes, National Shirt Shops, Singer Sewing Center, Richman Brothers apparel and an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. North Canton-based Camelot Music opened their very first store at MELLET MALL in 1966.

A large-scale renovation was announced in 1966 and completed in May 1969. The existing mall was expanded with a 2-level (116,200 square foot), Akron-based O'Neil's. This store commenced operation on February 15, 1968. A fully-enclosed East Wing and 2-level (120,600 square foot) Montgomery Ward were also added. Moreover, the circa-1965 mall was enclosed and climate-controlled.

The first cinema at the center, the single-screen Mellett Mall Cinema, opened December 20, 1968. It was twinned in 1973, when it was renamed the Mellett Mall I & II. The venue was shuttered in 1988.

Greater Canton's second regional shopping facility, BELDEN VILLAGE MALL {4.1 miles north, in Stark County}, had been dedicated in 1970.

MELLETT MALL was given a 16 million dollar renovation in 1987-1988. A 10-bay Food Court was built in gutted store space and the mall interior given a facelift. At an official rededication, held in March 1988, the shopping complex was bestowed a new name, CANTON CENTRE. As part of the renovation, the General Cinema Corporation Canton Centre I & II had been added to the East Wing.

O'Neil's was rebranded as a Cleveland-based May Company of Ohio on January 27, 1989. On January 31, 1993, May Company received a new nameplate; that of Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's.

In the early 1990s, the Canton Centre I & II was expanded with six screens. It was renamed the Canton Centre 8 and was in operation until the year 2000.

By this time, the mall had been struggling for quite a few years. THE STRIP {5.1 miles northwest, in Stark County} was a power-format complex that had opened in November 1996. It reduced patronage at CANTON CENTRE considerably. Moreover, neighborhood demographics had shifted.

Eventually, things hit rock bottom. CANTON CENTRE was auctioned off in September 2001 and sold again in October 2004. The new owners, the New York City-based Nassimi Realty Limited Liability Company, embarked upon a demalling project.

The Ward's store and East Wing were torn down, along with the multiplex cinema. In their space, a 1-level (200,000 square foot) Wal-Mart SuperCenter was built. It opened for business April 13, 2005. Wal-Mart was an outparcel, "shadow anchor" of the shopping center. Kaufmann's officially became a Macy's September 9, 2006. In February 2008, the store was shuttered.

Today, the 433,500 square foot CANTON CENTRE is being promoted as a power center, although a great deal of the complex is not in use. It has been in the throes of a protracted (second) demalling since 2007.

During 2010, a "Phase One" reworking converted the vacant Food Court at the front of the structure into a block of outward-facing stores. In June 2011, it was announced that the vacant O'Neil's / Kaufmann's / Macy's was to become an VXI Global Solutions Call Center. However, this plan fell through.

The eventual fate of the vacant areas of the shopping venue is uncertain. It is plausible that the delayed demalling will get back underway, with unused sections being razed at some point in time. Whatever the case, the J.C. Penney structure will be left standing, as the Plano, Texas-based chain has made clear that they have no plans to vacate the store that they have operated since 1965.

Sources:

"O'Neil's" article on Wikipedia
"Don Mellett" article on Wikipedia
Canton, Ohio Repository / G. Patrick Kelley
info@cantoncentre.com
www.cinematreasures.org
www.cinematour.com
wwwnassimirealty.com
Stark County, Ohio tax assessor website