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The Sun Herald - Living the high life in Denver

Living the high life in Denver

The gateway to Colorado's ski fields has plenty of attractions

by Debbie Hunter

 7/10/2007

 

LIKE NUMEROUS old gold mining towns in the picturesque US state of Colorado, the city of Denver has seen plenty of legends come and go.

Not surprisingly, there are some who take their time leaving what both visitors and locals regard as God's own country. One of them is Jack Weil, or "Papa Jack" as he is referred to by friends.

Originally from Chicago, the 106-year-old can still be found behind the counter of the mega-successful Rockmount Ranch Wear store he established 60 years ago on the downtown Denver street (formerly Wazee) renamed in his honour earlier this year.

Apart from going into the record books as the oldest working CEO, Papa Jack's biggest claim to fame is the snap-button western shirt.

The check shirts with their signature broad yokes, sawtooth pockets and diamond snap buttons are a favourite with real-life cowboys

used to threading a lasso around the legs of a heifer rather than cotton through the eye of a needle.  They've graced the shoulders of some of the biggest names in showbiz, from Elvis to Eric Clapton.

On screen, the slim-fitting shirts priced from $63 have been worn by Urban Cowboy John Travolta, Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer and, more recently, Heath Ledger in Broke back Mountain.

Co-run by Jack's grandson Steve, the store has expanded its range to include boots, hats, skirts, scarves and even children's wear.

Rockmount remains one of the few brands still made in the US, exporting worldwide including to Australia, but a visit here is more than just a place to indulge in some retail therapy. It's become a living museum where the walls are filled with memorabilia - from press clippings to celebrity photos. It's worth your while to engage Jack in conversation, too. He has ripper yarns he's always keen to share.

You'll find Rockmount in one of the city's oldest timber-and-brick neighbourhoods, an area known as LoDo (Lower Downtown). The district, once rundown, is now vibrant, thanks to stylish new pubs, restaurants, wine and sports bars, art galleries and clothing stores.

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