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By Emily Ford, Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Once a destination for furniture buyers and outlet shoppers, the former Cannon Village in downtown Kannapolis now faces an identity crisis as it struggles in the shadow of the

A handful of merchants who remain in the heart of the shopping district say they are battling to survive as their landlord, billionaire David Murdock, turns his attention from retail toward the new $1.5 billion life sciences hub just up the street.

"We’re pretty much on our own," said Darrell Jackson, who opened the Lee Clothing Warehouse in Cannon Village 22 years ago. Jackson said he remembers 68 shops filling Cannon Village. At one time heavily promoted by Murdock’s Atlantic American Properties, also called AAP, Cannon Village included a burgeoning arts community and hosted a gallery crawl once a month.

Now, many tenants are gone. Sales in Cannon Village plummeted after Pillowtex closed in 2004, the largest layoff in state history. Some merchants persevered only to become victims of big box stores or the recession.

Four furniture stores are going out of business. That will leave nearly a quarter-million square feet of vacant retail space, including a block and a half along West and Oak avenues. The owners blamed the bad economy and slow development of the Research Campus.

For more details, see the report.