Sitting in the Algiers Cafe, sipping a cup of chamomile tea amid the din of conversation, Gifford, 10-year president and a founding member of the Defense Fund, peers over her glasses intently and describes what she thinks is special about the Square.
"There are wonderful shops, and I know the merchants. You feel like you're a member of a community," says Gifford, a real-estate agent. "It sure beats the mall."
"If it doesn't exist in the Square, no one gets it for Christmas," she says, noting that her family moved recently "to enjoy the Square without driving a car." The family eats out frequently, and when the children come home to visit, Chili's on Mt. Auburn Street is a favorite restaurant for dinner.
But Gifford and other members of the Defense Fund see a tendency toward change for the worse in the Square.
They point to development projects such as One Brattle Square, the Charles Square Hotel and the Kennedy School of Government as buildings that "canyonize" the Square, destroying the historic, low-rise character that makes it unique.
In addition, Defense Fund members feel that the Mom-and-Pop establishments which make the Square more than a mall are threatened by national chains that can pay higher rents, edging out their smaller competitors.
"We think what makes the Square special, what people come here for, is the Brattle Theatre, the Tasty, Algiers, Casablanca--for the things that are different," says Gifford.
But not every Harvard Square loyalist carries a Defense Fund membership card.
For 41 years, Alexander M. "Sandy" Cahaly ran a men's clothing store store on Brattle Street. His father had run a grocery store on Mt. Auburn Street, where Christy's now sits.
"I literally grew up in Harvard Square," he says in a characteristically gruff voice.
"I have made my living in Harvard Square. I am one of the people who love Harvard Square and want what's best for the Square."
In 1995, Cahaly needed to find a new tenant for his property on Church Street when Steve's Restaurant closed.
Before choosing a tenant, he and his wife, Janet A. Cahaly, came up with a "wish list" of what they wanted their lessee to offer the Square.
"When we ran the clothing store we'd have tourists come in with a youngster bouncing up and down who really had to use the bathroom," he recalls.