Why there’s a stuffed gorilla outside an Everett vacuum store

Looming large on the sidewalk is a shaggy gorilla and a 10-foot vacuum cleaner.

It’s the King Kong of Evergreen Way.

But this gorilla isn’t rampaging the city. He’s trying to clean it up.

The sidewalk duo are a roadside attraction at Clean City Vacuum, 6628 Evergreen Way, near Madison Street.

Ever wonder: What’s up with that?

The stuffed gorilla came with the store when Dale Silbaugh bought it a dozen years ago.

“It was, I thought, very tacky,” Silbaugh said. “So I had taken it into the back of the warehouse and I was going to trash it. Before I could do that, a little old lady driving by stopped and came in says, ‘Where’s the gorilla?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m throwing it away,’ and she says, ‘You can’t do that.’ I says, ‘Why not?’ She goes, ‘That’s how I know where I’m at on this street, is when I see that gorilla.’”

OK, maybe she had a point. Evergreen Way is a muddled strip of business after business and it’s easy to lose your bearings.

“So, he’s still here, even though I think he’s tacky,” Silbaugh said. “His name is Fred. An employee named him.”

He later got the giant vacuum from a Yakima store that went out of business so Fred would have company on those long stints on the sidewalk.

People often stop to take photos with their arms wrapped around Fred, who goes inside the shop after hours. Man and ape work the same hours. It’s only fair.

Fred has a cousin, GorVac, at a vacuum store in Redmond owned by Silbaugh’s sister.

GorVac (it stands for gorilla and vacuum) is dressed as a clown.

Seems a gorilla peddling vacuums isn’t some local quirk. A Google search turned up vacuum stores in Texas, Arkansas, Florida and Canada using this form of gorilla advertising.

And, yeah, most sport goofy outfits. The gorilla at Hillbilly Vac Shack in Canada wears a striped prison outfit.

Fred prefers the au naturel gorilla look. He dons a straw hat at times. That’s as fancy as he gets.

There are little vac critters at their feet: A vaca-gator. A rhino-vac. An vaca-lope. A pig-uum.

“People drop off their dead vacuums and we’ll recycle them,” Silbaugh said. “When we see one that has the shape of an animal or we can see an animal in it, we’ll take it apart and build an animal. Sometimes it takes three or four different vacuums to build a single animal.”

He got the idea from a vacuum store in Seattle. “They have little cars and trains and they have a Space Needle that they made out of old vacuums. I was taking a vacuum apart and I thought, man, if I cut that off it would look like antlers.”

Silbaugh isn’t just crafty. Saving vacuums is his way of saving the planet.

“Instead of throwing them in the trash, we take the motors out, the cords off and recycle the metal. We try to keep the dump free of old vacuums,” he said.

“We don’t just tear them apart. We fix them. A lot of people will throw a vacuum away and all it needs is a belt or the brush roll to be cleaned. It’s sad, but it’s life.”

Vacuums are his life. “I’ve never worked anywhere else.”

His dad owned a vacuum store. Continuing the family tradition, one of his sons now works with him. The other son is an accountant at an aerospace company.

Fred does PR.

Silbaugh’s glad he kept the tacky ape.

“People say, ‘Go to the vacuum store, the one with the gorilla.’”

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

What’s up with that?

Ever see things around the county and wonder “What’s up with that?”

Sure you do! “What’s Up With That?” is a new weekly feature in Good Life on Tuesdays.

Send your suggestions to Andrea Brown: Email: abrown@heraldnet.com. Mail: P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206-0930. Post on the blog www.heraldnet.com/whatsup. Questions? Call 425-339-3443.

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