Mike Walsh takes over as general manager and Jennifer Grisez is the new marketing director.

JACKSON TWP.  With an occupancy rate topping 95 percent, Belden Village Mall finds itself in a strong position considering predictions that brick and mortar retail is waning.

Success doesn't mean the mall and owner Starwood Retail are standing pat. Mike Walsh, the mall's new general manager, hopes to be announcing changes and additions at the mall later this year as agreements are reached to fill the handful of spaces still open.

Walsh is transitioning into the leadership role at Belden Village. The last four years he has been at another Starwood property, the Franklin Park Mall in Toledo. He has worked 14 years in mall management, with stints at the South Park Mall and Great Northern Mall in the Cleveland area.

Starwood also has hired a new marketing manager for Belden Village Mall. Local resident Jen Grisez has taken the post. She has worked with Harry Loundon Chocolates and most recently with regional running specialty retailer Second Sole.

Belden Village Mall remains a destination for shoppers, and Starwood wants that to continue. Walsh and Grisez are working on projects designed to keep people coming to the mall.

"It's our job to bring traffic into the retailers we work with," Walsh said.

Starwood bought the property in 2013. Two years ago Starwood remodeled the north entrance and added spaces for two restaurants. Cleveland-based Melt is leasing one of the slots, while another tenant should be signing on soon, Walsh said. He anticipates other changes will be announced later this year.

Restaurants help draw potential shoppers to the mall, in turn helping the retailers. Starwood also has launched initiatives designed to increase mall activity.

One is Live 360, which began in April at Belden Village and opens mall space for a variety of events and programs. Cooking and fitness classes, book clubs, nonprofit organizations and other groups have used space. Grisez said the mall also hopes to begin collaborating on programs with ArtsInStark.

"We have the space. They have the expertise," she said.

A second Battle of the Pop-Up also has started, offering a small business the chance to use space in the mall rent free from Nov. 1 until April 20. Businesses can enter through the mall or the Starwood Retail websites, or by dropping off an application at the mall offices. Entries will be judged based on creativity, the likelihood for profitability and other criteria.

The programs are part of an effort to build an experience that keeps people coming back to the mall, Walsh and Grisez said.

Funeral home has new owner

Canton native Jim Patron is the new owner of Hecker-Patron Funeral Home in Lake Township.

Patron and his wife Sue, who grew up in Mogadore, bought the business at 13151 Cleveland Ave. NW, in the Uniontown area, in April. The couple already operates a funeral home in Bethesda, in Belmont County.

A Lincoln High School and Kent State graduate, Patron received a degree from the Kentucky College of Mortuary Science. He has been a licensed funeral director since 1980.

Diebold Nixdorf team again with Mastercard

For the second time in less than two months, Diebold Nixdorf and Mastercard have announced a partnership incorporating the local company's AllConnect Services package.

Diebold Nixdorf's omni-channel systems and consumer transactions combine with Mastercards's processing services and global network capability. The new offering is being introduced in the Asia Pacific market for banking clients, followed by retail clients. The companies said customers will see operational efficiencies, seamless transactions, and have convenience and choice with cardless transactions.

Retailers will be able to service more customers, while financial institutions will be able to launch new products with speed and agility, the companies said.

In early June, the companies announced a collaboration for automatic teller machines developing a mobile system designed to bring the convenience of digital payments to cash withdrawals.

Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @epritchardREP