The Centenarian Cowboy
Every morning, Jack Weil greets his customers from a desk set up at the front of Rockmount Ranch Wear's flagship store in Denver. He doesn't let anyone pass him by without first asking where they are from. It's a typical routine for many entrepreneurs in the retail world -- except, at 106 years old, Jack Weil is far from the typical entrepreneur.
After more than 60 years with Rockmount, the wholesale western wear business he founded in 1946, Weil still delights at the universal fascination with the West and almost can't believe the distance that customers will travel for the Rockmount brand. "The surprising thing is the number of people that come into our place from all over the world," Weil says. "There's something about cowboys, I guess."
More than a century old, Weil is somewhat of a celebrity in Denver. Indeed, he is widely believed to be the oldest CEO in the United States.
Throughout his years, Weil has overseen the growth of Rockmount from a modest wholesale business that marketed to cowboys in the Western United States, to a recognizable international brand, and a timeless staple of the American fashion industry.
Rockmount shirts have been worn by countless celebrities and musicians dating back to Elvis Presley and Clark Gable, and spanning the decades with Ronald Reagan, and even the modern-day Indie rock band, The Killers. Rockmount apparel has also long-been immortalized on the big screen, and most notably was used to outfit the actors in the 2005 Academy Award-winning movie, Brokeback Mountain.
Yet despite the company's growth and continued popularity, Weil maintains that it is the devotion to individuality that makes Rockmount so unique. Weil claims to have been the first to design western shirts with snaps, instead of buttons -- for a more practical, but also more flattering look -- and he was also the first to commercially produce bolo ties. According to company lore, Rockmount's signature look -- the saw-toothed pocket and diamond snaps -- is the longest-running shirt design in the nation.
For Weil, much of the company's authenticity is rooted in its history as a family business. At one point, Rockmount was a three-generation business. Weil's son, Jack B, joined the company in the 1950s and helped bring Western fashions to the eastern United States, and his grandson Steve arrived in the 1980s and worked to expand the company internationally.
These days, Steve Weil acts as the company president, while Grandpa Jack is content to handle the accounts receivable and spend his mornings in the store sharing personal stories with customers. One of his favorite things to talk about is his granddaughter's dog, whom they named Rocky, after Rockmount Ranch Wear.
Weil's son has already retired from the business, but his centenarian father has no plans to do the same. Asks Weil, "What the hell else would I do?"