Words of wisdom from Jack A. Weil

Even though Rockmount Ranch Wear, the last manufacturer left in LoDo, went through a major facelift a few years back when it opened its ultra-cool retail component, there are still some surprises in store.

When Steve Weil went to Nevada for a trade show last week, his wife, Wendy Weil, and manager Gretchen Bunn did to Steve what he'd often done to his father, Jack B. Weil, and grandfather, Jack A. Weil: They cleaned the joint. And they made an incredible find: an essay that Jack A. had written in 1975, during the mid-'70s recession, back when Rockmount's founder was a spring chicken of 74. Jack A. had sent the essay to all of his retailers and also printed it up as a poster — then stuck one copy on top of a filing cabinet, where it waited to be found for thirty years, for a time when its message would ring most true.

"A few of us can remember the 1930s," Jack A. began. "I was there. The world is not coming to its end, we have simply a long-due settling-up of follies and perhaps greed.

"Evaluate today's conditions sanely: our press reports lay-offs, shut-downs, unemployment, tight money, stock market drops — what-have-you. The government predicts possible 7% unemployment. If it goes to 10%, there will still be 90% working, consuming, buying...

"There definitely will not be the easy care-free spending of the past few years. Your customers will ask, 'How much' and expect common sense prices or they will do without. It is past time for the manufacturers and retailers to consider 'how much,' too. And we all will need to adjust our expenses and buying to make it on 10%, 20%, even 30% less business...

"Don't let fear or panic take over. Buy selectively. Ask yourself whether you would pay the necessary retail price, you will be right more often than not. And you will make it.

"Our United States of America has the same God-given wealth. We have the know-how and the drive to cure our man-made ills, with old-fashioned common sense, work, judgement."

That's Papa Jack, speaking to us all from beyond the grave. He died this summer, at the age of 107.

"What left me awed was that every detail is relevant in 2009," Steve says. "People hark back to the Depression even though none of them were there — but here's someone who was, and he's like, 'Look, people, it isn't the same.' Wasn't then, isn't now. While many people think the sky has fallen, they're the minority. The majority are still doing what they always were — breathing, eating, living, same as always."

And working. After his father, Jack B., passed away, Steve started writing down the wit and wisdom — and there was plenty to spare — of Jack A., consulting daily with his grandfather, who was still coming to work every day. The result, Ask Papa Jack: Wisdom of the World's Oldest CEO, will be published on March 13 by Johnson Books, with a book-signing in April at the nearby Tattered Cover in LoDo, right after what would have been Jack A. Weil's 108th birthday.

He died before he could see the final copy, and many of the comments made after his passing form a postscript for the book, which also boasts blurbs from Mayor John Hickenlooper, Rocky Mountain News publisher John Temple and author Kent Haruf.

But now, as he so often did, Papa Jack has managed to get in the final word.

Scene and herd: Looks like the city has too many names for Denver's new justice center and not enough cash in the city's coffers. Here's the solution: Just sell the naming rights to the new jail/courthouse. Lawyer Frank "Strong Arm" Azar should have a strong interest in this deal; no reason Harvey Steinberg wouldn't want a piece of the action, too. And save a couple of bricks for David Lane.

After all, they're all bound to be around longer than Invesco.

 
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