Cook described as 'the brains' behind Liberty stores

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By Panzi Blackwell

Although it is the dead of winter, it seems that “flowers” are blooming all along Gallatin Street … the Flowers family, that is. The managers/owners of the new “Liberty” stores are all a part of the Tony Sr. and Teresa Flowers family.

As the downtown Vandalia series continues, Liberty Shop, Drop and More Store comes into focus, along with an introduction to Sean Cook, who – several of the Flowers family members have claimed – has been the smarts behind the Liberty Stores and rejuvenation of downtown Vandalia. His father-in-law, Tony Flowers modestly stated, “Sean is the brains – I just did some legwork.”
Meet Sean Cook
Sean is married to Hannah Flowers, Tony and Teresa’s daughter. He was born and grew up in Southern Indiana.
He attended college in New Orleans, then at Lake Land College in Mattoon, where he met and married Hannah. They moved from Mattoon to Eastern Kentucky, and were there for about three years, “until all this came about,” he said, referring to the Flowers family work in downtown Vandalia.
The Cooks have two daughters, Macy and McKenna, ages 4 and 2.
Sean Cook is a very busy young man, but he is friendly, with a down-home manner, courteous in talking about the various businesses offering diverse services in the Vandalia business district.
He was wearing work clothes and a stocking hat pulled down over his ears when he sat down behind a desk to talk amidst the construction and renovation work in progress in the Shop, Drop and More Store.
On hearing of Tony’s statement of him being “the brains,” he modestly said, “Somewhat, but he did a lot of legwork.”
How did this all happen?  
Sean said, “I was a farmer in Kentucky. I raised produce and I ran an auction down there, and I just decided it was too risky.
“I was looking for something to do, and Tony brought me a batch of coins in October of 2009 and from then on, I just loved it … and we opened a coin shop,” he said.
Thus, Liberty Coin Shop was the first Flowers/Cook venture in Vandalia.
“We got into coins and decided we needed something else, because we were doing pretty well, and we wanted to try to bring downtown back a little bit,”  he said.
Next Venture Inspired by His Love of Coffee
“I love coffee and I’ve always wanted a coffee shop, so we opened a coffee shop and Cathy wanted a cheese shop, so there we are,” he said. Cathy (Flowers) Sanders and her husband, Don, are enthusiastic about the shops. Cathy is Tony Sr.’s sister.
Shop, Drop & More
At this new-idea-to-Vandalia store, located at 514 W. Gallatin St., Cook will offer the public the opportunity to shop and sell on eBay. Although many homes now have access to eBay, not everyone is comfortable with it or knows how to use it.
“We started with the eBay service, which is doing OK, but not enough. We have teamed up with Brian’s Auction Service, and we are going to have auctions by Brian Stout (Brian’s Auction Service),” Cook said. “We will have a coin and firearms auction every six or seven weeks. We will take coins and guns on consignment, charging a small fee. Then, we will have an antique sale about every two months.
“In addition to the eBay thing and the auctions, we still need to get something else in here, so Tony Jr. is going to get his broker’s license to sell real estate, and he will be in here,” Cook said. “Every business needs to have a backup plan, so we have a backup plan.”
Cook explained his plan to help the general public with e-Bay.
“A lot of people have stuff at home and they don’t know how to sell it, never have taken the time to learn how to sell it,” he said.
“They can bring it to us, we will evaluate it. We will look it up and say, ‘This is a good item to put on e-Bay,’ or maybe we will tell them it would do better in live auctions.
“By having a live auction that is going to be held here or in Greenville, we give them another option. So we will evaluate it, tell them how we think it should be sold, what our fees are, and it’s their decision if they want to sell it,” Cook said.
“Typically, we try not to take a lot of small dollar items, because it takes just as long to sell a $100 item as it does to sell a $5 item.”
Cook hopes to dispel the impression of distrust that a lot of people have in coin dealers.
“In offering this service, if they don’t trust us in coin dealing, we will put it right online and let them see what the general public says what it is worth. If they don’t want to sell it to us outright, they can sell it online,” Cook said.
“And we don’t charge anything to tell someone what something is worth, unless it is a large estate or a large collection; then we will charge by the hour. But if someone has just 10, 20 or 30 coins, we will tell them what they are worth.”
Cook introduced Justin Arndt, who will handle the antiques. He will operate from the same building on Gallatin Street.
The Auctions…
…will be held at different locations. A coin and firearm auction will be held on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m. at the Los Amigos banquet room on Veterans Avenue in Vandalia.
An antique sale will be held Friday evening, Feb. 24, at the Vandalia Moose Lodge.