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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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59 news items

Sun, 28 Jun 2015 11:33:45 -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.


Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:30:49 -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 ...
Mississippi News Now
Thu, 16 Jul 2015 08:11:15 -0700

The city's first enclosed shopping center was anchored by Penny's, Gayfers and Woolco. It thrived throughout the 1970s, but it got some serious competition when Metrocenter opened in 1978. The opening of Northpark Mall in 1984, however, dealt a heavier ...

Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union
Mon, 16 Feb 2015 08:32:01 -0800

By Monday morning, the Belk name had been removed from the store, replaced by banner announcing a fixture sale. The closing comes as the Charlotte, N.C.-based department store chain prepares to open a new standalone store less than four miles away, ...


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 ...

BlogHer (blog)

BlogHer (blog)
Fri, 17 Jul 2015 05:45:00 -0700

I have modeled for Gayfers, Parisian and worked for Ralph Lauren in Palm Beach. I've taught modeling to young girls, showing them how to use the muscles on their face to create a gorgeous smile with their eyes. Tyra Banks calls them "smeyes," but I was ...

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