William M. Cafaro

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William M. Cafaro (May 23, 1913 – April 22, 1998) was an American pioneer in mall development who founded the Cafaro Company, one of the nation's largest commercial real estate developers.[1]

Early years[edit]

Cafaro was born in Youngstown, Ohio, to Anthony and Flora Diana Cafaro.[1] He grew up in the Hazelton district of the city's east side and attended East High School.[1] He later attended Hall's Business College.[1]

As a youth, Cafaro worked as a pinsetter at a local bowling alley and maintained a paper route in the city's downtown district.[1] At the age of 17, he took a job at a local Republic Steel plant and rose to the position of shift foreman.[1] Meanwhile, Cafaro and his brother, John, owned and operated a popular east side establishment known as the Ritz Bar & Supper Club, which drew top entertainers.[1]


His real estate career began in the 1940s, when he began to buy and sell properties on Youngstown's north side.[1] Cafaro used the proceeds from these sales to purchase a car dealership in Warren, Ohio.[1] In the 1950s, he developed supermarkets in Barberton and Akron. His first major undertaking was the development of a large strip mall in Sharon, Pennsylvania.[1] Over the next few decades, the Cafaro Company developed more than 70 commercial properties. These included shopping centers, open malls, and enclosed regional shopping malls.[1]

In the late 1960s, Cafaro established the Eastwood Mall, in Niles, Ohio, one of the country's first "super regional" enclosed shopping centers.[1] As his obituary notes, "That and other projects nationwide each exceeded 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of retail tenant space under one roof and were considerable engineering feats at the time".[1]

Civic activities and later years[edit]

Cafaro was closely associated with the development of Youngstown State University. In the 1960s, he lobbied Ohio state officials to designate YSU as a state university.[1] In addition, he served for years on the board of the YSU Education Foundation, where he was instrumental in the establishment of Cafaro House, a residential honors facility for outstanding students.[1]

Cafaro died at the offices of the Cafaro Company on May 22, 1998.[1] Funeral services were held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Youngstown.[1]


In 1970, the president of the Republic of Italy made Cafaro a Knight of the Order of the Italian Solidarity.[1] In 1996, he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D. C.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "William M. Cafaro, 84; developer of malls, philanthropist dies". The Vindicator. April 23, 1998. p. 1.