‘Cougar Country is a Pullman icon’

Zoe's manager talks about reopening Cougar Country

Mike+Wagoner%2C+Zoe+manager+and+owner+of+Cougar+Country%2C+smiles+behind+the+counter+and+talks+about+the+future+of+Cougar+Country+Drive-In+on+Monday+afternoon+at+Zoe+Coffee-house+and+Pub.
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‘Cougar Country is a Pullman icon’

Mike Wagoner, Zoe manager and owner of Cougar Country, smiles behind the counter and talks about the future of Cougar Country Drive-In on Monday afternoon at Zoe Coffee-house and Pub.

Mike Wagoner, Zoe manager and owner of Cougar Country, smiles behind the counter and talks about the future of Cougar Country Drive-In on Monday afternoon at Zoe Coffee-house and Pub.

JACKEE SMITH | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

Mike Wagoner, Zoe manager and owner of Cougar Country, smiles behind the counter and talks about the future of Cougar Country Drive-In on Monday afternoon at Zoe Coffee-house and Pub.

JACKEE SMITH | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

JACKEE SMITH | THE DAILY EVERGREEN

Mike Wagoner, Zoe manager and owner of Cougar Country, smiles behind the counter and talks about the future of Cougar Country Drive-In on Monday afternoon at Zoe Coffee-house and Pub.

JACKEE SMITH, Evergreen reporter

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The new Cougar Country Drive-In will not open for the first Saturday football game of the season on Aug. 31, as originally anticipated, according to the burger shop’s new owner.

“We would [rather customers] came and had an awesome experience rather than come and it be a complete failure,” said new drive-in owner Mike Wagoner, who also owns Zoe Coffeehouse & Pub.

With some health inspections still ongoing, Wagoner said he is in the process of hiring. He wants to be fully staffed and trained when Cougar Country reopens so customers will be satisfied.

Back in February 2019, Cougar Country Drive-In wrote on social media that it was shutting its doors, and at the time, the people of Pullman may have feared that it was forever. But that was before a local business owner decided to buy it.

“Cougar Country is a Pullman icon,” Wagoner said.

Cougar Country opened its doors in 1973 and has been a family-friendly staple ever since. Wagoner said his family moved here, went to school here, and he and his wife Terry Wagoner raised their kids at Cougar Country.

Wagoner said one of his favorite memories of Cougar Country is seeing the delight on his children’s faces when he said they should go get a Kiddie Cone.

“As a parent it makes you feel good to make your kids happy,” Wagoner said.

When rumors started circulating about Cougar Country closing, Wagoner’s family immediately told him that he needed to buy it.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Wagoner said. “My whole family was behind it, shoving me towards that.”

Wagoner said that when Cougar Country was closed, it just looked like a big black hole every time he drove down Grand Avenue.

SERENA HOFDAHL | THE DAILY EVERGREEN
Mike Wagoner, Cougar Country Drive-In’s owner, pushes back expected opening date because the he hopes, “people will love it as much or more as that did in the past.”

As he began the process of opening a new business, Wagoner realized it would be more difficult than originally thought. If he had bought Cougar Country before it closed, it would have eased the process, but he said nonetheless they are passing inspections with flying colors.

Wagoner said that for the most part they will keep the same menu and same recipes but will consider adding more.

“We don’t want to change people’s love for the place,” Wagoner said.

There will be some physical changes done to the interior, but Wagoner said that these changes will help with efficiency, an issue Wagoner wanted to improve on with his reopening Cougar Country.

“We’re really hoping people will love it as much or more as they did in the past,” Wagoner said. “Cougar Country 2.0.”

Wagoner said he and his family are hard at work to ensure that when Cougar Country is officially open for the public, it will still be the place students go after game days and where families can create their own memories, just as Wagoner was lucky enough to do.