Eastwood Mall Evolves, reinvents itself – and thrives

Eastwood Mall evolves, reinvents itself – and thrives

  • By MICHAEL ROKNICK Herald Business Editor
  • Mar 2, 2023


NILES, Ohio – Hopping on top of a big plastic turtle figure at Eastwood Mall’s playground, two-year-old Hannah Cross pretends she’s going on a wild adventure.

“Go fast,’’ Cross urges the man-made turtle.

Unsettled, the Cortland tike moved on to another figure.

And that’s pretty much what the Niles mall has been doing – moving on to face a far different retail landscape since the rise of internet shopping.

“What was Eastwood Mall was 20 years ago is much different than we are today,’’ said Joe Bell, director of corporate communication’s for the mall’s owner, Cafaro Co.

Eastwood touts itself as being the fifth-largest shopping area in the U.S. in measuring total space under roof.

Housed on over 100 acres, Eastwood said it had 13 million visitors last year.

The mall itself opened in 1969 with a list of anchor retailers from a different era. Sears, Strouss’, Montgomery Ward, and Woolworth department stores were its breadwinners.

But those retailers have either gone bankrupt, gone out of business or were gobbled up by bigger outfits.

Its anchor stores now still are chain department stores – Boscov’s, Dillard’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Target. Dillard’s been a full-service department store there for years, and the mall managed to save as clearance store, where Dillard’s sells products that shoppers likely won’t buy unless it’s at a steep discount.

“That’s a big growth area now,’’ Bell said. “We’re seeing more retailers going this route.’’

Along state Route 46 on the east side of the mall complex, a Bass Pro Shops is settling into the former Levine Furniture location, and Meijer is close to opening its combination retail and grocery store on the former site of the Kmart SuperCenter. Both stores are located in free-standing buildings. Other smaller retailers and a new restaurant are coming, Bell said.

The mall’s playgrounds and aquarium were created to draw families.

Attracting young families is crucial for retailers as adults between 20 to 45 are in their prime spending years. It drew Hannah’s parents, Alyssa and Josh Cross.

“We’re here at least once a week,’’ Alyssa said. “When it’s cold and rainy, we like to walk inside the mall.’’

And yes – they buy at the mall’s stores.

Eastwood has the traditional stores all housed under one roof, but there’s a bevy of other retailers, restaurants and other businesses in plaza-like dwellings or stand-alone buildings.

There’s other things that sets it apart. The complex has a cosmetology and medical education school. A workout center also is inside the mall.

“We’ve got a doctor’s and dentist’s office and an art studio, too,’’ Bell said.

The 30,000-square-foot Eastwood Event Centre was created to house events from weddings to conferences. It can be divvied up to create five spaces.

Thought was put into the operation. A Residence Inn by Marriott is connected to the center to handle overnight guests for events.

“You can walk from one to the other without going outside,’’ Bell said.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a short-season minor league baseball team, is based a Eastwood Field, a stadium at the northwest corner of the Eastwood complex.

Eastwood is owned by the Cafaro Co., which is guided by the local Cafaro family. With over 50 properties nationwide, Cafaro has developed more than 30 million square feet of commercial space in 14 states. That makes it the largest privately-owned shopping center development and management company in the U.S.

Cafaro’s headquarters is located in a separate section of Eastwood.

The mall’s current occupancy rate is 90 percent, a tad lower than competitor Simon Property Group’s 94.5 percent mall occupancy rate as of Sept. 30, 2022. Simon is the largest U.S. mall owner, and its properties include Grove City Premium Outlets in Springfield Township. In 1996, the Youngstown-based mall and retail developer DeBartolo Realty Corp. merged into Simon.

But Eastwood is leaps and bounds ahead of the Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage, which lost Sears and Macy’s as its anchor tenants plus slews of smaller merchants. Penney’s is the remaining anchor store still open.

Last summer, the Shenango Valley Mall was bought by Butterfli Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Pepper Pike, Ohio-based Flicore LLC. The city of Hermitage is working with the new owner to develop the mall and surrounding area.

Eastwood is a 20- to 45-minute drive for the majority of Mercer County residents. and there are familiar faces here.

In 2021, Reyers Shoe Store made the painful decision to end its 135-year run in downtown Sharon and settling inside the Eastwood Mall. Store co-owners Mark Jubelirer and his brother Steve said the move was critical to keep the business alive as Eastwood has far more shopper traffic.

“We’re thrilled to be in Ohio’s best mall,’’ Mark said.

The shoe store is still learning about its new clientele.

“We’re still working on what the market wants,’’ he said. “But shoppers here are learning we pride ourselves on better service and better footwear. We’ve won two national service awards since we’ve been here.’’

Sharon-based Daffin’s Candies, which still operates its main store in Sharon as well as a handful of outlets in nearby towns, has rented a store inside Eastwood for a dozen or so years. The store moved to a new location inside the mall to make room for Boscov’s new store in 2021.

“This has been a wonderful move for us,’’ Mandy Meyer, the store’s manager said. “This location has a lot more shopper traffic.’’

Meyer explains that the store is now located next to an entrance.

“The first thing people smell when they come in is chocolate,’’ she said with a laugh.


Bass Pro Shops part of Ohio’s Eastwood Mall Growth Spurt



Bass Pro Shop joins in the regeneration of Ohio’s Eastwood Mall

Al Urbanski

Real Estate Editor & Manager – Chain Store Age


Over the past two years, Eastwood Mall outside of Youngstown, Ohio, has executed leases with a bevy of new restaurants and landed a Meijer superstore. This week it hauled in Bass Pro Shops Outpost.

“Shaking hands with [Bass Pro Shops founder] Johnny Morris to bring one of his amazing retail stores here is a crown jewel addition to this complex and the entire region,” said Anthony Cafaro Jr., co-president of Cafaro Properties.

Eastwood is Cafaro’s largest property, encompassing 1.7 million sq. ft. of enclosed mall and 1.4 million sq. ft. of power center space.

The 63,000-sq.-ft. Bass Pro Outpost will be located in the Howland Commons section of the complex, across from the soon-to-be opened Meijer and Home Goods stores. It is expected to be open and running in early 2024.

Outposts carry less theming and merchandise than Bass Outdoor World stores, which run as large as 500,000 sq. ft. It will be Bass Pro’s seventh location in Ohio, but the first in the Mahoning Valley that has a population of 540,000 people—a large percentage of which commutes to work in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

“This part of the world is home to a proud sporting heritage,” said Morris, who began selling fishing tackle out of his father’s liquor store in 1972  and has since grown it into a 177-store chain. “Our latest Bass Pro Shop in Ohio will make it easy for people and families to enjoy time together in the woods and on the water.  For that we, we are deep down proud and excited.”

Over the last 24 months, Cafaro has also embarked on a wide expansion of Eastwood’s food and beverage options. They will number more than 30 when a new spate of restaurants open, many of them fast casual and sit-down establishments such as Longhorn Steakhouse and Mission BBQ.


Massive Electric Vehicle Plant Lands New Product


Monarch tractor leaves cocoon

Foxconn, ag firm to build vehicle in Lordstown


AUG 19, 2022




Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Local elected officials, business leaders and Foxconn Lordstown employees were invited to check out the Monarch Tractor during its local debut Thursday morning at Foxconn Lordstown.


Monarch Tractors - FoxConn's newest customer in Lordstown, Ohio

It’s the vision that’s fueling the execution of the partnership between Monarch Tractor and Foxconn to mass produce the Livermore, Calif.-based company’s MK-V Series tractor, a battery-powered autonomous piece of farm equipment that has the potential to revolutionize the farming industry, Monarch’s top executive said.

And it was part of his message Thursday when the companies publicly debuted the smart tractor at Foxconn’s plant in Lordstown. Earlier this month, it was announced Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant, will be the contract manufacturer for the tractor.

“(It’s) a combination of innovation and technology and a combination of quality and precision manufacturing, something that is going to end up on every farm around the world,” Praveen Penmesta, co-founder and CEO of Monarch Tractor, said.


It boiled down to automotive pedigree on the Foxconn team, electrification and Foxconn’s experience in electronics, said Mark Schwager, Monarch Tractor’s co-founder and president.

“So combining automotive, electrification and electronics was a really big thing for us,” Schwager said. “We really only found that here — a tremendously talented team across the board.”

Full-rate production of the MK-V Series tractor is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2023 at the approximately 6.2 million-square-foot plant, the former General Motors assembly plant that Foxconn acquired in May from Lordstown Motors Corp.

It will follow production of Monarch’s Founder Series in the fourth quarter of 2022 at Monarch Tractor’s Livermore, Calif., manufacturing facility.

Penmesta said production volumes would be released in the first quarter of 2023, but the number is expected to reach the tens of thousands.

“We are excited about demand. This is a big market in the U.S.,” said Penmesta, who earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati. “If you look at how many tractors are sold, especially in this class of tractors, we are talking about 150,000-plus units are sold.

“Suffice to say, the reason we are building a small tractor is because we are targeting high volumes,” he said. “This is not a big combine or a big tractor that sells in the hundreds or thousands. We are targeting tens of thousands going forward.”

The price point is in the $60,000 to $70,000 range before subsidies. The tractor, Penmesta said, qualifies for a tax credit in the new climate, tax and health care law President Joe Biden signed Tuesday.

It has battery capacity to provide eight to 10 hours of operation for most medium-duty applications, said Schwager, and can charge in about five hours.

“If you can run for eight to 10 (hours) and charge in five (hours), you can really work around the clock for those harvest times, those challenging times when a farmer really has to floor it and get the job done,” Schwager said.

The battery is not part of the vehicle but can be removed and swapped for a fresh battery. That process, Schwager said, can be done by one person in about seven minutes.


Foxconn also has contract manufacturing agreements with Lordstown Motors to produce its flagship electric vehicle, the Endurance truck, and with Southern California’s Fisker Inc. for its PEAR, or Personal Electric Automotive Revolution.

Production of the PEAR, which earlier this month Fisker reported had more than 4,000 reservations, is scheduled to launch in 2024. The plan is to build at least 250,000 PEAR vehicles per year once the plant ramps to production.

Lordstown Motors announced, also earlier this month, it is limiting its first batch of Endurances to 500 with much of that production occurring in the first quarter of 2023.

For Monarch, said Rick Rajaie, vice president of operations for Foxconn North America, “I can tell you we are well on plan and on target to fulfill the capacity target that … Monarch has beyond 2024.”

He could not say exactly how many square feet of the massive plant are in use now, but Monarch has its own dedicated space broken into two production spaces — one for the main tractor and one for the roof, the autonomous system that contains sensitive intellectual property.

He confirmed Foxconn is in talks with other original equipment manufacturers, but stopped short of saying how far along the company is in securing new products.

“We are blessed. Ever since we came to the community, we have been approached by a lot of partners in the industry,” Rajaie said. “I cannot share any confidential details with you, but I can assure you that we are in discussions with a variety of partners …”