By Joe Bell
Cafaro Company Director of Corporate Communications
NILES – Since the middle of 2022, the clatter and hum of new construction has filled the air at the Eastwood Mall Complex. It seems to defy logic. Instead of quietly shrinking, as so many retail pundits describe the fate of American shopping malls, retail space at Eastwood is growing.
The centerpiece of the activity is a nearly 160,000-square-foot Meijer superstore now taking shape, accompanied by its gas station/convenience store. Across the shared parking area, a new Carter’s children’s store opened in the fall and a 22,000-square-foot HomeGoods is rising.
Simultaneously, construction crews began the work of creating new restaurants: King Cajun, a seafood concept eatery, opened in September. Longhorn Steakhouse started serving this year. Mission BBQ and Mudslingers, a drive-thru coffee purveyor, will be open by the end of March.
It hasn’t stopped there. Recently, ironworkers erected the frame for Eastwood Shops, a retail development on the southern side of the property, near Route 422. This 12,000-square-foot plaza will be home to McAlister’s Deli, which will tentatively open this summer, along with available spaces for other businesses. Soon, ground will be broken for a Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service facility near the Fairfield Inn. In the Great East Plaza section, Venetia Nail Lounge & Spa also is preparing to welcome customers.
Inside the enclosed mall itself, at least three new stores are getting ready for openings this spring: Apparel retailers Daily Thread and Box Lunch, and a coffee/smoothie shop by the name of Nrgize Lifestyle Café.
To appreciate how counterintuitive all this growth is, note this ominous prediction from analysts at one investment bank in 2022: “UBS is now projecting between 40,000 to 50,000 retail stores in the United States closing over the next five years.”
While retailers come and go on a fairly regular basis, it would seem that Eastwood Mall is confounding the “experts,” adding rather than subtracting.
Why? It is not by happenstance. The growth is the result of a conscious strategy to continually evolve the Eastwood Complex to meet the needs and desires of consumers. The hard work of introducing new retail stores, hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and other businesses is an ongoing process.
By the time Eastwood’s corporate parent, Cafaro Company, moved to Niles and its newly built headquarters in 2016, discussions were long-underway with many new businesses visitors see now. Those efforts kicked into high gear in 2021, with creation of a new Boscov’s store, at 180,000 square-feet the largest department store in the region. Since that time, the succession of development projects has amounted to tens of millions of dollars of new investment.
That type of commitment speaks to the underlying strength of the regional economy. No retailer would want to establish a presence in a community unless there was there were promise of future growth. Obviously, that potential exists in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys. The result is very good news for consumers.
Pictured at top: A new plaza goes up on the mall property. The first tenant will be McAlister’s Deli.