|Grand opening of new store celebrates "Cooter's" tenth anniversary. Weekend celebration set for june 27 & 28.
Gatlinburg, TN - "Cooter's Place", the Dukes of Hazzard shops, just keep on growing. Cooter himself, Ben Jones, will be at the Grand Opening of the huge new Gatlinburg location on the weekend of June 27th and 28th and he couldn't be more proud.
When Jones and his wife Alma settled in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains back in 1998 he had a simple plan. After achieving fame as "Cooter" on the television mega-hit "The Dukes of Hazzard" and serving two terms in the United States Congress, Jones figured it was time to kick back and do some writing and make some music. Those things happened, but in a roundabout way.
"One day I passed an old roadside fruit stand that was empty and for rent," he says, "and that got me thinking. I had this crazy idea to start a little joint called 'Cooter's Place'. It was a Dukes of Hazzard museum and shop, with a General Lee out front and bluegrass music on the weekends. That old place really took off. Within a few months we had visitors from every state in the union and from over thirty countries around the world. It didn't take long to realize that our show hadn't gone anywhere, and that it was maybe even more popular than ever!"
The grand opening of that store in July of 1999 drew 3,000 visitors. "That place outgrew our little county," says Jones. "So we moved it to Gatlinburg a few years back. Now we are movin' uptown, to a much bigger place."
The new location, directly across from Ripley's Aquarium, has a larger museum area, a full store of "Dukes" merchandise, the largest indoor go-kart track in Tennesee, and an 18 hole miniature golf course, all under one roof.
"There are now three Cooter's stores," says Alma. "Our wonderful new location in Gatlinburg, our fabulous place in Nashville, and our mini-musuem in Bronson, Missouri." The Nashville location, just across the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, features and expanded museum which also contains Cooter's Tow Truck, Daisy's Jeep, Rosco's Patrol Car, and of course, a General Lee, the 1969 Didge Charger which has achieved iconic status among fans of the show. There is also a General Lee at the Bronson Mini-Museum, which is part of the Dixie Outfitters store in that famous vacation town. Visitors there can take a spin in the "General".
Jones and other cast members make regular appearances at all of the stores. "It took a while, but I finally got around to the writing and the music," says Jones. "Last year Random House published my memoirs, and 'Cooter's Garage Band' played on the Grand Ol' Opry. None of that would have happened if it hadn't been for that little fruit stand up in the Virginia mountains that we opened ten years ago."
Meet Ben "Cooter" Jones in Gatlinburg at Cooter's on Saturday, June 27 from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and on Sunday, June 28 from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Jones will be meeting fans, taking pictures and signing autographs.
For more information about Cooter's Place in Gatlinburg call (865) 430-9909 or visit www.cootersplace.com Cooter's is located at 542 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN 37738.