Oldest CEO Draws Fans to Denver The man believed to be the country's oldest CEO, 106-year-old "Papa Jack" Weil, is a favorite of customers at Rockmount Ranch Wear, the western clothing apparel company Weil founded in 1946.
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Oldest CEO Draws Fans to Denver

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Oldest CEO Draws Fans to Denver

Oldest CEO Draws Fans to Denver

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next, we're going to meet a man named Jack Weil born two years before the Wright brothers' first successful flight. He went to Denver when the main drag there was still gravel. Even though he's now 106 years old, he still works everyday at Rockmount Ranch Wear, that's the western wear company that he founded back in 1946.

Nancy Greenleese of member station KUNC has his story.

NANCY GREENLEESE: The man believed to be the country's oldest CEO stands on a busy street corner in Denver. He's tiny, decked down in a blue Rockmount shirt, bolo tie and a white hat. The city is temporarily renaming a street in his honor. It's an annual birthday tradition that started when Jack Weil turned 100. Dozens watched as Weil yanks the string to undrape the sign saying Jack Weil Boulevard.

Unidentified Man: All right.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. JACK WEIL (CEO, Rockmount Ranch Wear): I can't believe it, a county boy from Indiana. I appreciate all of you coming, and I hope that you come back next year, and maybe sooner you're right down the street.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENLEESE: The consummate salesman doesn't miss a chance to lasso them into Rockmount store. It's in an historic brick building with a tin ceiling and plenty of dead animal heads on the wall. Here Weil is in the saddle, that is, sitting behind a hulking wooden desk, as women fawn over him like a Western Hugh Hefner.

Ms. KITTY COMSTOCK(ph) (Customer): He's with all the women as always.

GREENLEESE: Customer Kitty Comstock takes the photo.

Ms. COMSTOCK: I always give him a kiss, and he says where were these young women when I was younger.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENLEESE: His late wife Beatrice used to say that his mistress was the company. Weil worked 10-hour days until his 90s. Peddling the shirts that were inspired by early Western movies. He realized that even city slickers wanted to look the part.

Mr. WEIL: Everybody wants to cowboy. I realize that because I wanted to be a cowboy.

GREENLEESE: But Weil's classic slim-fitting shirts also have real cowboys in mind. He introduced shirts with snaps, instead of buttons that allow a cowboy to break free if caught by a steer's horns. Weil also asked the legendary Stetson Hat Company to widen its hat brims.

Mr. WEIL: So we could turn them under and put a wire in there and shape them. And the reason for that was so four(ph) could ride it across a pick up.

GREENLEESE: His Western wear has traveled from the rodeo to Rodeo Drive. Elvis Presley and Ronald Reagan were customers as our many musicians including Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt. Rockmount shirts were worn by the stars of the movie "Brokeback Mountain." Today, Weil has even found a fan among at least one discriminating French man.

Unidentified Man: I actually bought three shirts and a bolo tie.

GREENLEESE: Michel Valet(ph), a petite man with wild grey hair is adding to his collection of about two dozen Rockmount shirts.

Mr. MICHEL VALET (Customer): This one is pure yellow, which is my color. It's quality. I mean, nobody makes shirts like Rockmount anymore, that's why true cowboys come here. I'm not a true cowboy. But that's why they come here.

GREENLEESE: Three generations of Weils now worked at Rockmount. Grandson Steve Weil joined the business in 1981. He credits his grandfather's longevity to his love for his work and some simple rules.

Mr. STEVE WEIL (CEO, Rockmount Ranch Wear): He lives moderately. He doesn't overeat. He doesn't let things get to him. He's not stressed kind of person.

GREENLEESE: Jack says he also get some help loosening enough from another fellow named Jack, Jack Daniels.

Mr. WEIL: My doctor tells me to take a drink once or twice a week to keep my blood thin (unintelligible). I'm 106, and I'm still here. Yeah.

GREENLEESE: And getting up for work, Jack Weil has no plans to ride off into the sunset anytime soon. He says he doesn't know what the heck he'd do if he retired.

For NPR News, I'm Nancy Greenleese in Denver.

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