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Town icon settles into retirement

XSteveCook
Steve Cook

By Bonnie Bailey

H&T Correspondent

If you’ve visited the historic Jonesborough square in the last couple of months, you may have noticed something’s missing. Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery, which had been a staple of the square for 37 years, closed up shop in mid-November.

“It felt like the right time,” Steve Cook, owner of Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery, said. “[My wife and I] are both still healthy enough to do kayaking and some hiking and things like that, so we thought if we are going to do it, we had better do it while we can.”

The couple plan to spend their first year without the gallery traveling and enjoying more free time.

“There are a lot of things we hope to do,” Cook said. “We’re not totally retired, but we can be selective with how busy we want to be as opposed to the day to day umbrella of retail that’s over your head every minute when you own a store.”

Of his time spent on the Jonesborough square, Cook said he hasn’t regretted one second, and he appreciates the support he, his wife and his business have received over the last 37 years.

“We watched this town grow up,” Cook said, “and we kind of grew up with it. It’s been fun. It’s been rewarding. It’s been very exciting at times just due to the projects you get to do. Everybody who walks in the door is a potential neat project.”

And despite the store’s closing, the Cooks look forward to doing more glasswork and meeting more people with ‘neat projects’.

“Our studio has always been at home anyway,” said Cook, who has been building stained glass for 41 years. “We can meet the clients at their job sites or they can come to us by appointment. We have every intention of continuing to build pretty glasswork for whoever needs it.”

Cook, who has always been very active in the Jonesborough community, also plans to continue his involvement with Music on the Square, which he created in 1999 to help re-invigorate the square and bring people into the downtown area after hours.

“We didn’t want it to look like our sidewalks rolled up at 5 p.m.,” Cook said. “At least not every day. I knew some musicians, being a musician myself, and I said, ‘Come on down and play.’”

We couldn’t pay the musicians at first, Cook said, but we worked into that later on, once the event got its footing and secured sponsors.

“We are always looking for sponsors,” Cook said, “and that will be an ongoing thing.”

The weekly music festival, which is free and open to the public, is held every Friday evening starting in May and it runs through the summer, ending in September. The festival showcases a variety of entertainment, from bands to performance artists to poets and storytellers.

“The town fathers didn’t think much of closing the street every Friday,” Cook said, “and originally, they told us we couldn’t. But they got so many calls… they decided to let us.”

And it did bring people into town, he said.

“Everything just kind of fell into place for it be a good event,” Cook said. “This will be our 19th season coming up.”

As far as the question of what will replace Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery, the building that housed the gallery, located at 101 East Main Street, has already been rented by another artist.

Renovations will begin soon, Cook said, and we can look forward to “a very promising art entity coming in there.”

For information on glasswork, you can contact Steve Cook at (423) 753-5401 or by email at [email protected] For more information on Music on the Square, you can call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or visit the Music on the Square website at musiconthesquare.net.

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