Steve Kalafer got into the automobile business by accident. Armed with a bachelor of science degree from Rider University, the ambitious young Kalafer began his professional career in banking. Then, at age 24, he took a job in the business office at a car dealership in Trenton. Kalafer liked the business and soon purchased a small, virtually dormant dealership and filling station in Frenchtown.
In time, Kalafer moved the little dealership to Flemington. It became the seed for an automotive empire that would grow to 17 franchises at nine locations, mostly under the Flemington Car and Truck Country brand. In 2021, Kalafer told New Jersey Monthly that his dealerships had sold “a half a million automobiles” over the years.
But Kalafer was much more than a super-successful car dealer. He was a highly respected philanthropist, a dedicated family man (his sons joined in his businesses), a successful real-estate developer, and a fervent baseball fan.
In 1998, Kalafer founded the Somerset Patriots, a minor-league baseball team that plays its home games at Somerset County’s TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. The success of the franchise enabled Kalafer to fulfill a lifelong dream in 2021 when he signed a 10-year deal with the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball designating the Patriots as the Yankees’ double-A minor-league affiliate.
Kalafer’s commitment to Central Jersey ran deep. As reported by New Jersey Monthly, the Patriots alone claim more than $5.5 million raised for area charities. Kalafer-family giving goes far beyond that, supporting institutions such as the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville. The Kalafer family’s generosity touches individuals, too. For many years, the Kalafer businesses have picked up all the parking fees for guests at RWJ Somerset.
At the time of his passing, Kalafer was chairman emeritus of the Somerset Health Care Foundation; served on the board of RWJ Barnabas Health; and was co-chairman of the Actors Fund of America Chairman’s Council.
Remarkably, the Kalafer name never appeared on any of his car dealerships. “I usually think people’s names should go up in lights only in the entertainment business,” Kalafer told New Jersey Monthly.