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Department store
Industry Retail
Fate Acquired by Dillard's, Inc
Founded 1879
Defunct 1998
Headquarters Mobile, Alabama
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.
Parent Formerly Mercantile Stores Company, Inc.(1950-1998)
Website None

Gayfers was a regional department store chain in the southern United States. Based in Mobile, Alabama, the chain of stores operated from 1879 until 1998 when it was taken over by Dillard's.


C.J. Gayfer migrated to Mobile, Alabama from Southwold, England sometime after the Civil War. He opened a retail department store, Gayfer's, in downtown Mobile in 1879. At the time of his death in 1915, Gayfer's employed 150 people and averaged over $500,000 in annual sales. Gayfer became well known for his philanthropy and was one of the earliest proponents of employee health care benefits.[1]

During the 1950s, the Mercantile Stores chain acquired Gayfer's, which then worked aggressively on the expansion of the chain. The first branch store was opened at Town & Country Plaza in Pensacola, Florida, in 1956. This successful move was followed four years later with the opening of the Springdale Plaza store in Mobile, Alabama, becoming the company's flagship store. The Downtown Mobile store closed in 1985.[2]

Gayfer's expanded into the Western Gulf Coast in 1963, opening a store at Edgewater Plaza Shopping City (later Edgewater Mall) in Biloxi, Mississippi. This store was expanded in 1974 and again in 1987; it was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (by this time it was Dillard's) and had to be rebuilt. In 1969 a store was opened in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

In 1970, the apostrophe in the company name was dropped.[2] This was clearly a banner year for the company, as it opened stores in Montgomery, Alabama (through the purchase of Montgomery-based Montgomery Fair); Jackson, Mississippi, and started construction of a second store in Pensacola, Florida, at Cordova Mall.

For the next twenty years, new stores would be opened or remodeled, and by 1981 there were 18 stores bearing the Gayfers name. In 1989, the Gayfers flagship store anchoring Springdale Plaza and Mall in Mobile expanded to 285,000 square feet (26,500 m2). It became the largest department store between Atlanta and Houston and one of the largest department stores in the region.

In 1998, Mercantile Stores was purchased by Dillard's, Inc., and the stores that were not closed or sold to other retailers were converted to Dillard's.[2]

Across the South, each store had a prominent teen board from the 1960s onward called "The Gayfer Girls," which advised the store on the latest in teen fashions and produced local fashion shows.

Rosa Parks also worked at the Montgomery store when it was still called Montgomery Fair during the Civil Rights movement.


  1. ^ "Flotte's Notes on Mobile and Baldwin Citizens". Flotte's Outlines of History, Science, and Economics. Retrieved 2007-11-26.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b c "Flotte's Notes on Mobile, Alabama". Flotte's Outlines of History, Science, and Economics. Retrieved 2007-11-26.  |chapter= ignored (help)

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gayfers — Please support Wikipedia.
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59 news items


Sun, 29 Mar 2015 07:04:26 -0700

"One of his favorite stories was about a time he had taken Auntie to Gayfers over in Mobile. Well, she had recently talked him into taking line dancing classes and so he decided to make productive use of his time by driving around to the back of the ...

Crestview News Bulletin

Crestview News Bulletin
Wed, 08 Apr 2015 14:24:21 -0700

(Used to be, you had just Wal-Mart and a package store and a few auto dealerships and a Gayfers, along with some fast food restaurants and a Ruby Tuesday. Now, wow... I can't even count how many major stores and shops, including Home Depot, Lowes, ...
The Birmingham News - al.com
Mon, 10 Jun 2013 14:10:12 -0700

'Tokarev' shooting at old Gayfers building today; at Mobile Convention Center tomorrow (updated). Extra extra! Alchemy Tavern bartender Joelle Rosen is an extra in the Nic Cage thriller "Tokarev." (Tamara Ikenberg/tikenberg@al.com). Print Email.


Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:26:15 -0800

They fondly remember places like Gayfers, the city's first major department store, and the Brown Derby, a 6,000-square-foot hopping restaurant with great steaks, a bar and a dance floor. At its opening in 1971 and for many years later, Tallahassee Mall ...


Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:45:49 -0800

McElhaney remembers being taken downtown as a youngster, remembers things a kid would remember: riding the manual elevators in Gayfers, being fascinated by the illuminated antlers of an Elk outside the Elks Lodge that once stood at 207 Government ...


Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:07:30 -0800

"I remember running down to Kress, cutting through Gayfers to get there," says Deborah Gibson DeGuire. About 'My Downtown' With this story, AL.com and The Press-Register introduce "My Downtown," a series exploring the unique past, present and future of ...

Press-Register - al.com

Press-Register - al.com
Sun, 16 Nov 2014 07:35:46 -0800

Maureen met Skip when they were both working at the former Gayfers department store in Springdale Mall, she as a buyer and he as a salesman in the men's department. "He was a tall, skinny guy who was just fun to be around," she said. His grandfather ...

Jackson Clarion Ledger

Jackson Clarion Ledger
Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:11:43 -0800

MOBILE – As a girl, she'd skip off from the family business on Dauphin Street and dart through crowds, not even aware she was running through a golden age. “I remember running down to Kress, cutting through Gayfers to get there,” says Deborah Gibson ...

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