Marigail Mathis, a specialty retailer and former fashion designer whose career spanned more than three decades, died of renal cell cancer on Tuesday at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. She was 62.
Mathis operated several namesake better boutiques in the Southeast before closing all but one store in Florence, Ala., where she built a loyal customer base and sought to promote the region as a fashion presence. She also designed a denim sportswear line, Marigail, until about 10 years ago.
Born in Poplar Bluff, Mo., Mathis moved to Florence as a child and graduated from the University of Alabama. She worked briefly in New York as a designer for Avondale Mills, a Sylacauga, Ala.-based manufacturer, before joining Lexington Fabrics, a specialty T-shirt manufacturer owned by her father that had mills in Alabama and Tennessee.
Mathis launched her own line in 1987 and, at its peak in the mid-Nineties, Marigail was sold in more than 1,000 specialty stores nationwide and had showrooms in Atlanta, Dallas, New York and Los Angeles. Mathis opened her first store in 1992 in Germantown, Tenn., aMemphis suburb, to showcase her collection and opened other doors in Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham and Florence.
“Marigail was one of the first retailers to create a Web page and use the Internet to her advantage….She was a true visionary with so many creative ideas, and I regularly would get her opinions on how we could improve our business,” said Lawton Hall, former senior vice president of apparel leasing at AmericasMart in Atlanta.
“You could always tell what was going on the apparel industry by talking to her,” said Kaye Davis, executive director of apparel leasing for AmericasMart.
Mathis’ husband of almost 28 years and sole survivor, Tommy Mathis, is an artist and owns a gallery next to his wife’s boutique.
“There was a ritual that we’d do every morning, no matter where we were,” he said. “Whoever woke up first would say, ‘It’s a glorious day’ and the other one of us would say, ‘It’s the best day of my life.’ And that’s how Marigail lived.”
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