It was an exciting start to the week for Mike and Terry Wagoner after the couple announced on Facebook on Monday they were buying Pullman’s iconic Cougar Country Drive-In.
“The response has been incredibly overwhelming,” Mike Wagoner said, adding that people were even congratulating him at his doctor’s office when he went there Tuesday.
That Facebook post has generated more than 3,000 likes and hundreds of comments.
Cougar Country Drive-In had been on the market since March when the Wagoners, longtime local business owners who now operate Zoe Coffeehouse and Kitchen in Pullman, purchased it for $1 million.
Mike Wagoner said they told the former owner they were interested in buying the restaurant even before it went on the market.
The fast-food restaurant on North Grand Avenue has been closed since February, when it fell into financial trouble that led to employees not being paid. Former owner Rhonda Witt-Miller chose to retire after working there for more than 40 years, according to a news release from Mike Wagoner.
The Wagoners hope to open Cougar Country as soon as possible and will spend the next several weeks bringing the building up to new health code regulations, ordering supplies, and hiring and training a full crew of cooks and counter staff, according to the news release. They plan to hire about 40 new employees, and the business is currently accepting resumes.
The release said the Wagoners’ children grew up eating burgers at Cougar Country Drive-In, and they wanted to keep the tradition alive. The restaurant has been a staple in Pullman since 1973.
“It’s a landmark of the Pullman and (Washington State University) community,” according to the news release. “We estimate it’s fed hundreds of thousands of WSU students, alumni and local residents throughout the years, and we’re overjoyed to be able to continue this treasured legacy.”
The owners plan to keep the menu the same as it has always been. Mike Wagoner told the Daily News on Tuesday they do not have immediate plans for changing the look or layout of the restaurant, but will make improvements if necessary. He also said they will assess the prices.
He said one change they hope to make right away is increasing the quality of the ingredients served at the restaurant.
“That’s very important to us, to have a high-quality product,” he said.
The Wagoners have been business owners since 1983, when they bought University Printing and Copying. They sold that business in 1992.
They opened Zoe Coffeehouse in 2006 and another on the WSU campus in 2008. They purchased Tam’s Place in 2015 and turned it into Zoe Coffeehouse and Kitchen, at 1005 E. Main St.
Now, they have set their sights on getting Cougar Country ready for the masses, preferably before the first WSU football home game Aug. 31, Mike Wagoner said.
“We’ll do our best not to let everybody down,” he said.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to email@example.com.