‘Dukes of Hazzard’-inspired Cooter’s in the Country considers Page County

Page News and Courier

LURAY — With its doors scheduled to close in Rappahannock for good at the end of next month, Cooter's in the Country could be headed for Page County.

Following an Aug. 30 site visit with county officials, Ben Jones, the actor who portrayed “Cooter” on the 1980s hit television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and his wife, Alma Viator, are hopeful about a potential new home for the roadside memorabilia store.

With more than 13 acres of wide-open fields and scenic mountain views and a 12,000-square-foot facility, the former Outlanders building just west of Luray would be “an ideal location.”

“We are in the process of trying to work out all the details,” said Viator, adding an official deal has not been reached. “Page County would be a good match for us. While we love Rappahannock, it's not a very ideal place to do business.”

After opening Cooter's in the Country in Sperryville just more than a year ago, Jones and Viator announced last month that the store will shut down on Oct. 30 due to county zoning issues.

Jones also owns Cooter's stores in Nashville, Tenn. and Gatlinburg, Tenn.

According to a Sept. 5 story posted on the Wall Street Journal's website, the Sperryville location has brought in $950,000 since it opened in March 2015.

With both friends and fans already in Page, said Viator, as well as the Route 211 location, setting up shop in the former Outlanders has the potential to spur foot traffic to the store, as well as bolster Page County's growing tourism base.

“The Luray Caverns ― an amazing tourist mecca ― would be a good neighbor,” said Viator.

Page County Supervisor David Wiatrowski (Dist. 2) echoed that line of thinking, noting the nearby Skyline Drive and Shenandoah River.

Last month, Wiatrowski made several posts to his personal Facebook page in support of Cooter's making the move, urging other local residents to get behind it.

Viator said its that level of outpouring, contrasted by setbacks she and Jones encountered in Rappahannock, that create another incentive to do business in Page.

“Page County has been bending over backwards to help us in any way possible,” Viator said. “From supervisors to car clubs to music fans, to the EDA and the county administrator ― they've all just been wonderful.”

On Jones' 75th birthday last month, he and Viator met with Page County Administrator Amity Moler and Page County Director of Economic Development and Tourism Stephanie Lillard during a site visit.

Lillard said county officials approached Viator and Jones about the possibility of setting up shop in Page following the announcement that they would close the Sperryville store.

“We're excited about the opportunity of being their future home,” said Lillard. “We think it would be a good fit for locals and tourists alike.”

Yvonne Berezoski, owner of the Outlanders facility, said she also believed the location would be a “good fit” for the store.

“I think it will be a very nice addition to Page County,” Berezoski said, noting the county's Cabin Capital designation and the potential a tourist attraction like Cooter's offers to help keep cabins full.

After purchasing the Outlanders building in 2004, a large addition was added on to the former convenient store several years later. The business closed Dec. 31, 2015. Berezoski continues to operate the separate business Outlanders River Camp nearby.

Viator said she and Jones “hope to have some good news to share” in the coming weeks about the potential move to Page.

Meanwhile, the couple is planning a two-day “homecoming” festival for July 29 and July 30, 2017 in Sperryville. The event's official name, “Cooter's Last Stand,” said Viator, is a reference to a final large-scale production of the annual event, which is expected to draw cast members from the hit CBS show.

“Of course, all that could change if we move to Page,” said Viator.

UPDATE - In this week's Page News and Courier … has the deal been signed?

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