5 Reasons Why I Choose to Live in Canton, NC.

Sorrells Street Park-Canton, NC

I have lived in Canton, NC since May 2013. Before that? Hickory, NC, Minnesota, Alaska, and born and raised in The Lone Star State—TEXAS. I’m proud.

I have been immensely blessed to have lived in amazing places where I’ve found friends that turned into family. Now, with a husband and a young child, we knew we needed to make a move that put us close to family for support. More importantly, we were ready to put down roots, buy a house, get careers. Our stereotypical millennial ‘follow your dreams’ had faded into, ‘let’s find a home, community, and purpose where I can feel settled and calm’. Dreams change (I used to dream about pulling a ‘Promised Land‘, I really dodged a bullet there!).
Our family’s unlikely path lead us back to my husband’s hometown of Canton, NC, where people from outside of town—for some reason—are always asking why we live here. With a paper mill in the center of town, the stigma is high. Over 100 years ago, the paper mill was built and has been a staple of the town since. Besides employment, the paper mill also (and still does) the water treatment. The result, roughly 3/7 days a week there is a smell from the mill. I still smell it, but knowing that the town is actively addressing the water challenges is encouraging, and the smell is part of that.

Regardless of stigma, smell, or small town size, I have fallen in love with this place. Why?


Location, location, location. Positioned right off I-40, the Town of Canton is only 20-25 minutes to downtown Asheville (where I work), only minutes away from amazing hiking, and the tourist friendly Town of Waynesville. Canton also has some great amenities, like a Japanese, Southern, and Mexican restaurants, several grocery stores–including Food Lion and a great Ingles (with a Starbucks! I have a problem). For us, we also have family close by (see BONUS below).

Affordability. Canton has a much lower median house price than several areas of Buncombe County (especially Asheville) and even some parts of Haywood County. Rent in Asheville/Buncombe county is painfully high and in short supply. Right now, rent in the area we live in (according to an unscientific poll) ranges from $600-$850/mo for a 2-bedroom 1-bathroom house. I have some colleagues paying double that in the Asheville Metro.

Canton Rec park

Walk-ability to recreation. We live in town, so that means sidewalks that lead to the Recreation Park! While several towns and cities in the region have this as well, it is typically coupled with higher priced housing. Basically, you pay to have access and the views. Here, we have affordable housing that is located in a place where we can take a walk by the Pigeon River, and enjoy the local pool and playground. There are also basketball courts, a small skateboard zone, sand volleyball, and river access.

On a walk around Canton

Scenery. This place is beautiful.  That is all.

Family Friendly. The affordability, the recreation, access to healthcare, the rec park… did I say that one already? The town’s recreational programming team and community works dilligently on family friendly activities and events. From the Labor Day Festival (the oldest Labor Day celebration in the Southeast), National Nights Outs, Shining Rock Riverfest, Christmas Parades, Fourth of July celebrations (fireworks on the 5th, always, because why not?), and so much more.

Grit. I don’t use this term lightly, especially after reading Grit by Angela Duckworth, a book about passion and perseverance. This town was built on the backs of the American worker. It values community and it knows that the paper mill is part of the community because Canton was built around it. When other mills were being closed and outsourced, this paper mill stayed open, Fun Fact: The Canton papermill makes your Starbucks cups!

This community perseveres and fights. They are proud and focused on preserving Canton for the next generation. That could mean ensuring future work training for future generations through pulp and paper vocational training, encouraging chemistry for students in local high schools, and developing and sustaining family owned and small businesses. Count me in.

Hometown band, Balsam Range describes Canton’s history in their award-winning album, Papertown:

BONUS: Last but not least, proximity to family. We live close to family that has been a great support system for us. We can’t do this alone, and don’t want to! You can’t put a price tag on free babysitting… but I have. We’ve saved at least $4,500 in past 3 years living close to free babysitting family. They have picked up my son when he’s sick at preschool when my husband and I didn’t see the calls come through, we’ve enjoy dinners made by someone else when we were too tired to cook, and we get to watch our son grow up knowing family.

So, if you still want to know if it smells, I’d say you are asking the wrong question. Is Canton improving this family’s quality of life? Yes.

I like my question better.

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