By Lenore Fedow
Maxine Bennett, founder of Castle Gap Jewelry, turns 100 this month.
Dallas—Maxine Bennet, founder of Castle Gap Jewelry in Dallas, will ring in her 100th birthday this month.

Born in the town of Rankin in west Texas, one of Bennet’s first jobs was dancing the Charleston in a local café for spare change.

Living in a region known for its oil boom, she married an oil industry executive, traveling the world alongside him, living in Mozambique and other far-off destinations.

When he died unexpectedly in 1973, Bennet returned home to Texas with her son Scotty.

The mother-and-son team opened Castle Gap Jewelry in the University Park area of Dallas, named after a place steeped in legend.

Bennet grew up near the Castle Gap pass, an area rumored to contain buried treasure from Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado circa the 1500s and Mexican emperor Maximilian from the 1800s.
20200224 Bennett insertMaxine Bennet (right) and her daughter, Beverly Bennet
The Bennet family and other treasure seekers have flocked to the area in hopes of uncovering the riches.

The namesake store specializes in sterling silver and authentic Native American jewelry.

Native American jewelry styles were popular in Bennet’s youth and her love for the craft and its artisans has lasted decades.

“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,” said Bennet in a statement.

Each handmade Native American piece is chosen by hand to ensure the craftsmanship and authenticity, and the jewelry is always silver, never plated, Bennet added.

As other stores in the area have shuttered, the family-run store has been operating for 47 years, which Bennet credits to strict jewelry standards and personalized customer service.

“People shop at family-owned businesses for a reason—they want friendly and attentive service while putting their money back into the local community,” she said.

Bennet still works in the store occasionally, alongside her daughter Beverly and long-time employees Laura Thompsen and Sherry Ward, stepping out of the back office to greet customers.

“They say that I can have anything I desire for my 100th birthday, so I’m having a cigarette. 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,” she said.

The store will celebrate Bennett’s birthday with a three-day celebration from Feb. 27 to 29, complete with sweets and champagne.

A store-wide sale will be held alongside a “Century Giveaway,” with a chance to win one of ten $100 gift cards.

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