|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2008)|
|Former type||Department store|
|Fate||Acquired by Dillard's, Inc|
|Products||Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.|
|Parent||Formerly Mercantile Stores Company, Inc.(1950-1998)|
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.