WSU gold rush of Everett begins with new Cougar store

Watch out, Dawg.

The Cougar is on the prowl.

Washington State University has set up shop in downtown Everett with a barrage of crimson and gray Cougar paraphernalia — on the Husky side of the Cascades.

It’s a sign of more “Wazzu” power to come as the Pullman-based university extends claws westward with educational programs in an area where the University of Washington has held sway.

Shoppers loaded up at the weekend grand opening of WSU Connections, 2809 Colby Ave.

“I’m really proud of the education I received and show it in my gear,” said WSU alumni Nicole Kennedy of Mukilteo. “It’s a little harder being on the west side as a Coug. There’s a lot of purple. We get a lot of flak for being Cougs.”

That’s changing as WSU takes over administration of the University Center of North Puget Sound in Everett this summer. Plans are in the works to design a new $10 million, 95,000-square-foot center on the Everett Community College campus.

The Colby Avenue shop is a smaller version of the downtown Seattle flagship store, which sells WSU tricycles and toothbrushes, branding irons, gnomes, athletic apparel and more.

“It’s more of a boutique,” manager Dave Walsh said of the Everett location.

The building, formerly a flower shop, is sleek and stylish, with brick walls, flashy graphics and bottles of wine.

A cooler brims with fat cans of cheese.

Husky fans might think that’s a lot of Cheese Whiz.

Not hardly. Not that there’s anything wrong with Cheese Whiz.

The crumbly cheese, made at the WSU Creamery in Pullman, is $28 for a 30-ounce can. The land-grant college’s creamery makes about 250,000 cans a year in various styles in brightly striped tins. The big cheese is the sharp white cheddar, Cougar Gold, named for professor N.S. Golding, who helped create the canned wonder about 75 years ago in what was revolutionary packaging at the time.

“The cheese turned out so good they’ve continued doing it the same way ever since,” Walsh said.

According to the WSU website, customers have stored unopened cans of Cougar Gold for 30 years. Once opened, it lasts similar to other natural cheese. The empty tins have been used to make banjos, called “canjos,” which can be used to play the WSU Fight Song. For real. Here’s proof: bit.ly/1gbrUEh.

“The cheese by far is the most popular item,” Walsh said. “After that, it’s the athletic apparel.”

Start ‘em young in a onesie garment shaped like a football.

Wine is another draw.

“All the wines have some association with the viticulture program or the alumni association,” Walsh said. Bottles range from $10 to $30.

An interactive screen has a campus map, virtual tour and history.

“People can come in and reminisce,” Walsh said.

It brought back memories for Jim and Mary Barcott of Everett, who picked up mugs, cheese and gift items.

“Jim and I are WSU grads, 50 years this year,” Mary said. “For us, it’s amazing the things that are still there, such as the Cougar Gold.”

Card-carrying Cougar alumni get 10 percent off at the store on everything except wine, cheese and sale items.

“For Huskies there’s a $5 surcharge,” Walsh said.

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

Washington State Connections

The Everett store, 2809 Colby Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

For more information, call 425-249-2394.

The Seattle flagship store in Westlake Center, 400 Pine St., will close the day after Memorial Day and reopen in mid-June at a new location in Rainier Square, 411 Union St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Merchandise can also be purchased online at www.wsuconnections.com.

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