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

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

Sun, 28 Jun 2015 11:41:44 -0700

Out-of-state investors paid $1.462 million for the former Gayfers building at 165 Dauphin St., across from Bienville Square in downtown Mobile, according to Realtors. The 82,000-square-foot former department store building fronts Dauphin, Conti and St.

The Birmingham News - al.com

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.

Pensacola News Journal

Pensacola News Journal
Tue, 29 Dec 2015 19:16:16 -0800

He was working as a clothing buyer for Gayfers, and met a couple who owned a popular little hot dog place in downtown Mobile. "It was called the Royal Doghouse and I got to be friends with the owners. Long story short, Gayfers was going to transfer me ...

Opelika Auburn News

Opelika Auburn News
Sun, 06 Dec 2015 03:21:21 -0800

“When Gayfers was switching over to what it is now, they had all the mannequins for sale, and I picked out one and bought that one mannequin and brought it home and decorated it,” she explained. “And then my son in California found one behind the dump.”.

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Thu, 03 Dec 2015 10:04:32 -0800

That space formerly was the home for Gayfers, an Alabama-based retail chain that Dillard's gobbled up in 1998. It was in early 2007 that Dillard's also purchased the vacant Parisian space from Charlotte, N.C.-based retailer Belk Inc., paying nearly $4 ...


Thu, 13 Aug 2015 07:42:18 -0700

Yesterday, the Leon County Planning Commission approved plans for The School of Arts and Sciences to move to the Center of Tallahassee, which is the new name for the old Tallahassee Mall on North Monroe Street. The school is set to move into the ...


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 ...


Tue, 16 Jun 2015 04:51:45 -0700

NEW YORK - Gap is closing 175 of its namesake U.S. stores and eliminating 250 corporate jobs as the clothing retailer attempts to strengthen its struggling brand. Gap, which owns Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, will close about 140 Gap U.S. stores ...

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