GREENVILLE, S.C.—Industry Hall of Famer Bennie Frank Mayfield, known to many as the “Dean of Retailers,” died Aug. 30. He was 97 years old.
Born in Spartanburg S.C. in 1914, Mayfield spent his entire career in the home furnishings retail business. It began in the family furniture business, J.F. Mayfield & Sons, in Cowpens, S.C., during the Great Depression. After his father’s passing, the family sold the inventory to Hammond Brown Jennings and, in 1938 he joined the company and started a profitable carpet department.
In 1946, after three years of military service, Mayfield decided to open his own carpet store. His boss agreed to lend him $12,500, but only if he did so in another city. He opted for nearby Greenville, S.C., and opened Mayfield’s Rugs & Carpets. Under his leadership the store grew into a multi-million dollar business and was the envy of every retailer in the area over the next 45 years.
Mayfield made his presence known by making cold calls along Main Street. He said his store’s success was because he sold “Frank Mayfield, not carpet” and gave his customers “peace of mind.” The business grew to be one of the dominant carpet stores in the Southeast. In 1986, he sold it to Hammond and opened F.M. Inc., a sales consulting company.
Mayfield’s sales philosophy manifested with the “Mayfield School of Knowledge” classes that he conducted with the Retail Floor Covering Institute (RFI), drawing some of the most influential flooring professionals.
Mayfield was such a natural that, as legend goes, he even sold while on vacation: On a trip to New York to visit a retailer friend, Mayfield sold a customer carpet for the entire Trump Towers while waiting for his friend.
In addition to his work in the industry, he helped establish The Mayfield College for Professional Selling in Chicago, and was an active instructor at the Chicago Merchandise Mart.
Mayfield was the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year in 1976 and among the inaugural group inducted into the Industry Hall of Fame. He was also a founder and past president of RFI and an advisor for the Retail Council for Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. He was honored by the Floor Covering Industry Foundation and in 1986, received the John Beckwith Memorial Award. Other industry awards included the Carpet Institute’s Outstanding Merchandising Achievement and for Retail Merit.
Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and CEO of CCA Global Partners, knew Mayfield from serving with him at RFI’s forerunner, the American Floor- covering Association, and called him a “true Southern gentleman, a great storyteller and really wonderful person. He had great warmth to him. He led an incredible operation—the type of store everyone would admire— and was very passionate about the industry. He had great commitment and great pride in it.”
It wasn’t anything magical that Mayfield did as a retailer or sales professional that made him successful. It was a willingness to be a servant to customers and work hard at his craft. Regardless of how successful you become, he said there’s always more to be learned, noting success in becoming a sales professional is not a point of destination but rather “a journey you never finish.”
Mayfield is survived by a daughter, Marilyn Mayfield Blackwell; grandchildren, Frank Blackwell and Lyn Blackwell Edmonds; and two great-grand- children. He is predeceased by his wife of 65 years, Alpha Davis Mayfield; three sisters and three brothers.
Contributions in Mayfield’s honor may be made to First Baptist Church of Greenville, 847 Cleveland Street, Greenville, S.C. 29601.