Cooter’s store is moving to Luray

Ben "Cooter" Jones

Ben “Cooter” Jones, of “Dukes of Hazzard” fame, and wife Alma Viator will be moving their gift shop, museum and restaurant from Sperryville to Page County in the coming weeks.

Jones called it a “blessing in disguise” and said he’s excited to make the move, which was prompted by parking issues at their Sperryville store.

Viator said that she and Jones felt the parking dispute was “cultural” due to the establishment’s pervasive confederate imagery. Rather than duke it out, Viator said she and Jones chose to avoid confrontation and move their operation.

“We’re at the point in our lives where we’re not going to keep jumping through hoops for the pleasure of doing business,” she said.

Viator explained that after a year of allowing parking on an adjacent field leased to the couple with the property, Rappahannock County planning commissioners threatened a cease and desist order.

“We said, ‘Well the Planning Commission doesn’t have that authority,’ and then we said to ourselves, ‘Hey what are we doing this for if this is what we’re having to deal with?'” Viator said.

“Without parking, we couldn’t be in business,” Jones said.

Jones and Viator will move down the road to another U.S. Highway 211 spot.

“We’re going to move our store right over the mountains to Page County just west of Luray,” Jones said. “(It’s on the) same highway – 211 – that runs through Sperryville. We’re moving about 20 miles to the west just above the Shenandoah River. It’s a great location. We hate leaving Sperryville but it just became difficult to do business here.”

Catherine Bach, who played the iconic Daisy Duke on the show, will be making appearances Oct. 29 and 30 to help “say goodbye” to the old building and commemorate the move to the new one, which Jones touted for its capabilities.

“It’s a huge venue,” he said of the former Outlander’s space in Luray. “It’s a great place for what we do. There’s plenty of room around it. There’s 12 acres of parking. Page County has been very helpful and hospitable. They’re happy we’re coming. It’s a very popular business if I say so myself. We’ve had a lot of fun with it for almost 20 years now.”

The new location’s address will be 4768 U.S. Highway 211 in Luray.

The pair have run the Sperryville operation since its inception in 1999 and expanded to include two additional stores – one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and another in Nashville. The stores offer a place for fans to see memorabilia and props from the show in addition to gifts and a restaurant.

“The fans are ecstatic (about the move),” Jones said. “We’ve gotten support from all over the world. The show, ‘Dukes of Hazzard,’ continues to be shown all over the world and it continues to be popular. It’s just fun. The fans are totally supportive. They’re going to help us move and everything. … We have people who come all the way from Italy, England, Japan and Australia just to see us. It’s pretty amazing.”

Jones and Viator explained the timeline of the new location’s opening.

“We hope to be open by Thanksgiving but we’ll have a grand opening later,” Jones said. “We’ve got so much to do. It’s moving a whole shop, a whole museum and a whole restaurant to a new location, which involves renovations and painting and it’s maybe four or five times bigger than our place is now. It’s a challenge to keep the same fun atmosphere in a much larger building, but I think it’s going to be landmark.”

“We leave November 1st,” Viator said. “We’re taking everything over there. Within a couple weeks we should be able to be somewhat in business – but not anywhere near as the grand opening.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.