‘A call you can’t refuse’

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 3, 2003

Selma native vows to give mall a new presence

By Dale James / Selma Times – Journal

Carver Boynton was in the midst of packing when the phone call came. Boynton was within days of leaving for an extended stay in Japan, where she had just accepted a new job.

On the phone was Mayor James Perkins Jr.

Selma needs you, Perkins told Boynton. You can’t leave.

“That’s a call you really can’t refuse,” Boynton said with a throaty laugh. “When someone is so committed to keeping young people and young ideas here in Selma, you listen. It was his vision of what he saw for Selma that made me stop and take a second look at my future here.”

Boynton, 28, has just been named as the new general manager of Selma Mall. While mayors don’t ordinarily play an active role in the hiring decisions of private companies, Perkins felt compelled to make an exception with Boynton.

“In this case,” he said, “I knew about the opportunity and I knew about Carver, and I thought it was a good match.”

Perkins became involved for another reason. If Selma is to grow and prosper as a city, he realized, it must stem the exodus of young people such as Boynton.

“Carver is one of Selma High’s bright students,” Perkins said. “We lose a lot of our young people because they are unable to find suitable job opportunities here in Selma. I saw this as a chance to keep that from happening in this case.”

Boynton boasts one of Selma’s proudest pedigrees. Her grandparents, Sam and Amelia Boynton, were active in registering blacks to vote and encouraging them to open their own businesses as early as 1929. For years the Boyntons operated their own insurance agency in Selma. While serving as Dallas County Extension agents, the Boyntons did much to improve the economic well being of blacks throughout the Black Belt.

When blacks marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 seeking the right to vote, Amelia Boynton was in the front ranks and very nearly lost her life after being trampled and beaten by Alabama state troopers.

As a young law student, Boynton’s father, Bruce Boynton, demonstrated the impact of his mother’s example when he refused to move from a white’s only lunch counter. That act of courage later spawned the landmark Supreme Court decision that gave birth to the Freedom Riders movement.

“I always knew that my family had a presence in Selma,” Boynton said. “But it wasn’t until high school that I really understood the importance of how that presence came to be bestowed on the family. And it wasn’t until I was an adult that I appreciated fully the real struggle it took to earn that presence.”

Although her grandmother is now in her 90s, she remains active and involved, speaking out in support of human rights causes literally around the world. She remains active in other ways, as well. Just recently Amelia won a dance contest in England. Boynton describes her grandmother as “a tremendously caring, humanistic individual.”

“The value that she places on human relations is extraordinary,” she said.

Of her father, Boynton observed, “He taught me many things. One of the biggest influences he exerted on me was in teaching me to evaluate the real issue at hand and to ask the correct question, while also being able to retain a moral sensitivity to issues.”

Boynton received her undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama and a masters in management from Faulkner University. She also taught business classes at Concordia College.

“I loved teaching,” Boynton said. “I loved my students and I loved the relationship I built with them. Teaching was just as much a learning experience for me as it was for them.”

Selma Mall is owned and operated by Aronov Properties, the largest privately owned full service realty agency in the Southeast. They own or manage malls and shopping centers throughout Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina.

As general manager, Boynton said she is committed to making Selma Mall a cornerstone in the effort to convince local consumers of the benefits to be gained by shopping locally rather than patronizing businesses in nearby cities.

“Our biggest challenge is giving the mall a presence in Selma,” she said. “We’ve lost a lot of traffic to Montgomery and now Prattville. We want to welcome Selma back into the mall as a fun place to be as well as a fun place to shop.

“We are committed to restoring the presence of Selma Mall back to where it was when it was the first place people stopped.”

To that end, Boynton said the mall will be sponsoring a wide variety of activities in the coming months, from entertainment events to cultural observances to community service activities.

“We’ll be sponsoring a cultural fest in February as part of black history month. We’ll also be hosting a blood drive, working with the recruiting offices located in the mall to give them a presence in that blood drive. We’re looking for the community to become tremendously involved in that effort.

“In the difficult times our country has entered into, we thought it was really important to honor the military and to show our appreciation for their efforts.”

Boynton said neither she nor the management at Aronov harbor any illusions about the challenges they face in making Selma Mall a retail force to be reckoned with, especially in the face of the stiff competition from larger malls in neighboring cities.

“One of the biggest advantages of living in a city the size of Selma lies in the fact you’re able to develop a relationship with lots of people,” Boynton said. “Lots of times when you need a resource you already have a friend there – and you haven’t even met them yet. It’s easy to find help, and people are willing to help. We hope to capitalize on that.

“This really is Selma’s mall. The mall is here to serve the community, and in turn we would like the community to patronize us.”