Sandusky Mall Complex
50 years of pivots
What do Cabbage Patch Kids, Polaroids, Rubik Cubes, Tamagotchis, and iPads all have in common? ... They were the best-selling products of a decade. Consumer tastes have sure changed a lot over the last fifty years, but the Sandusky Mall Complex is keeping up with the roller coaster.

The Sandusky Mall was opened by the Cafaro Company in 1976. The Mall was part of a growing retail portfolio nationwide. The Cafaro brothers began their legacy with the Ritz Bar in Youngstown, Ohio and then started developing grocery stores for the Kroger Co in the 1940s. In the 1950s, they opened their first shopping center in PA and their first Sandusky development - the Sandusky Plaza in 1954 at the intersection of Cleveland Rd. & Sycamore Line (later sold to the Sortino family). From there, the dominos came together... malls were developed in Ohio including Lima, Niles, Youngstown, and Sandusky along with properties in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Pennsylvania with several more to follow in the decades ahead. With each year, the Cafaro Company thought strategically about partnerships and consumer trends that would keep their centers vibrant – everything from minor league baseball stadiums, to aquariums, to innovative retailers such as Target and Costco.
Fast Facts
  • $40+ million transformation at important legacy site
  • 126 deluxe apartment units to support pressing local workforce and housing needs
  • Solidifying Erie County as a regional retail destination - a $300 million industry with 5,000 jobs
Today, the Cafaro portfolio encompasses more than 50 properties and 30 million square feet of space in 10 states, including the 1 million square feet owned and managed in Sandusky on Route 250. The business also looks different today. The enclosed mall of the 1970’s with legacy department stores like Sears are no longer matching with shopping habits and the goals of brick and mortar retailers and restaurants.

The Cafaro Company has gone back to the drawing board to reimagine their site and incorporate the ‘best of’ elements of new modern mixed-use developments to meet current expectations. The company embarked on a $40 million+ redevelopment plan last year to protect and enhance the vitality of their 100 acres in the center of Erie County’s shopping district.
Key retailers were added and repositioned – Hobby Lobby opened in March 2020. Specialty discounter, Five Below, opened earlier this year. A larger, easy to access TJ Maxx opened in October to great fanfare. Another Broken Egg Café, in the former Ruby Tuesday, will be open prior to Christmas. Dewey’s Furniture is set to open in 2022 and Ross Dress For Less in 2023.

Many of these developments emphasize turning portions of the mall ‘inside out’ with outward facing storefronts, a sought-after structure of some of today’s retailers. Others will join the leading retailers lining the enclosed mall concourses, like Victoria's Secret, Shoe Department Encore, Spencer's, Rue 21 and Bath & Body Works, which provide patrons with shopping convenience all under one roof.
An even more dramatic transformation is planned at the rear of the property with the introduction of The Villas at Sandy Creek – a multi-million dollar multi-family housing development. The Villas are envisioned to have 126 deluxe two-bedroom housing units with amenities like attached garages, green spaces, and clubhouse access, not to mention the entertainment and lifestyle amenities all surrounding on Rt. 250. This diversification is another best practice of modern mixed-use developments attractive to today’s commercial tenants.

The pandemic and online shopping trends necessitate the repurposing of shopping malls. Some industry projections estimate 1 in 4 malls could go out of business without intervention. The Cafaro Company and local officials with Perkins Township and Perkins Township Schools are keen to ensure this won’t be the case of the Sandusky Mall. With Erie County’s approval, the Villas at Sandy Creek are set to open in 2023.

Tis the season to be enjoying County’s $300 million retail sector. Happy shopping!
Did You Know?

New construction projects of this magnitude have many associated costs and barriers to entry. When making significant investments, companies may be able to take advantage of property tax abatements, which preserve a property’s existing tax base but forgo collections on improvements during the company’s ramp up years. ECEDC helps businesses like the Sandusky Mall explore, understand, and apply for tools like these. Contact us to learn more.
Stay Tuned for Day 2: Ardagh Metal Packaging
Facebook Join My List Logo
The 12 Days of Development email series recognizes and celebrates another year of progress in Erie County, Ohio. December 1st - 12th, you will receive a email spotlight on a company investing, improving and innovating in our community. We can't capture it all, so let us know a neighbor we missed or what activities you've got planned to make the 2022 list! #ErieCounty12Days