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Castles celebrates 20 years in business

When Cathy Franck and her parents were driving around downtownBrookhaven and she decided she wanted to open a clothing store, thethought never crossed their minds that 20 years later, she wouldstill be the owner of a store that has become one of the retailcornerstones of Brookhaven.

On Friday, Castles celebrated 20 years in business. Franck saidit was not just a birthday celebration, it was a Brookhavencelebration.

“I couldn’t be living and I couldn’t have my store in a betterplace than Brookhaven,” Franck said.

At the time Franck told her father she thought she wanted astore, she was living in Aspen, Colo.

In just a matter of months, she was back home, and she boughtCastles’ first location at 114 West Cherokee St., where the storewas located from 1991 to 2004. After a discussion at a MississippiState University Alumni meeting with the late George Brown, Franckwas able to buy her current location on Brookway Boulevard, and thebuilding began.

Franck talked to architect Larry Sones and told him her ideas. Afew weeks later, he was back, and he had the blueprint spread outon the table, face down.

“He said, ‘You’re either going to love it, or tell me I’mfired,'” she said. “I looked at it and told him, ‘That’sperfect.'”

So the gray building with the castle spires that is now sorecognizable was built and finished in the spring of 2004. Itattracted almost immediate attention when overseers of the buildingof the Renaissance shopping center at Colony Park in Ridgelandoffered her a spot in the new shopping center if she’d help themdesign it.

“I thought about it, but then I knew this is enough,” she said.”Madison is wonderful, but I love Brookhaven, and my children arehappy here. I don’t want to be pulled to another place.”

Since she’s been in business in Brookhaven, Franck said therehave been shoppers of all kinds, and she’s seen generations ofshoppers as well. They come to Castles for outfits for weddings,graduations, dates, homecomings and other occasions.

These are the things, her father said, that have helped makeCastles one of the leaders in Brookhaven’s retail shoppingindustry.

“She has always had a head for business, plus a bubblypersonality,” Gary said. “And she’s really got a heart and aconcern for the public.”

Franck said that’s part of the territory, and it’s been a joyand a gift as she’s gotten to know her regular customers.

“Your customers become your family,” she said. “When I’m pickingout clothes for the store, I can look at an outfit and think of aparticular customer.”

And since she’s never gotten too busy to work the floor of herstore just like her employees, Franck’s customers trust her,too.

“I had one customer who had cancer, and she came in and asked meto pick her out something to be buried in,” she said. “If you’dhave asked me if I’d be picking out someone’s clothes to be buriedin, I never would have thought I could do it. But I wouldn’t haveit any other way.”

Franck is the daughter of Harold and Jetty Gary and lives inBrookhaven with her husband Lawrence and their two children,Walker, 16, and Courtney Carol, 14. Franck said her sister Caroland nephew Paxton Trull, 15, are also important parts of her lifeevery day.

“I could travel all around the world and I’d still want to livein Brookhaven,” she said.