Maxine Bennett may be turning 100 this month, but she still shows up occasionally to work in the store she founded with her son, Scotty, in 1973. Back then, the mother-son team founded Castle Gap Jewelry to turn their shared love of sterling silver jewelry into a family business.
Bennet grew up in West Texas – Rankin, to be exact – and earned money dancing the Charleston at a local cafe for spare change. It was there she also fell in love with the Native American jewelry that would later become her life’s passion.
She married an oilman, and traveled the world with him — getting passport stamps from far flung places like Mozambique. After he unexpectedly died, she settled in Texas again, and began Castle Gap, eventually celebrating 47 years in University Park, even while competitors have closed their doors over the decades.
Now located in the Plaza at Preston Center, the Bennett family, which includes her daughter Beverly, still focuses on carrying sterling silver and high-quality authentic Native American jewelry. As Bennett hits the century mark, she says she is confident that the store will continue to be in the good hands of her family and longtime employees, Laura and Sherry.
“My passion isn’t just for selling beautifully handcrafted jewelry,” Bennett said. “Through our business, we not only help support individual Native American artists and their families, we support traditional Native jewelry-making as a whole.”
“Our dream was not only to create a successful business but use it to help make traditional artistry profitable enough for Native Americans to continue passing on their knowledge and artistry from one generation to the next.”
Bennett attributes the longevity of her business to high standards for the merchandise she carries and the personal service a family-owned business can provide.
“People shop at family-owned businesses for a reason – they want friendly and attentive service while putting their money back into the local community. We want each person to feel welcome and comfortable while here and to leave feeling that we went the extra mile to make them happy,” she said. “Castle Gap provides jewelry and service that you can’t get just anywhere.”
How is Bennett celebrating her milestone? With a smoke.
“They say that I can have anything I desire for my 100th birthday so I’m having a cigarette,” the soon-to-be centenarian said. “I quit many years ago, but have longed for one ever since. I figure once I reach triple digits, one cigarette won’t hurt me.”
The store will be celebrating Bennett’s birthday Feb. 27 through 29, with sweet treats, champagne, a 30% off storewide sale, and drawings for $100 gift cards.