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Published: Tuesday, 4/10/2007

Wauseon group has a cow over possible move of beloved bovine


WAUSEON Residents of Wauseon likely won t be able to stop one cash cow from strolling out of town.

But Sterlena is another matter.

People in the Fulton County community have launched a campaign to keep the 14-foot bovine mascot of the locally based Sterling Store convenience chain, which is being sold to a Canadian firm.

A group claiming 320 members, many of them young adults, has formed on the social-networking Web site, Facebook, to Save Sterlena.

I don t want to see her leave, one woman wrote.

This is our cow! another group member scrawled in response to a rumor that the fiber-glass mascot is headed to the Wisconsin headquarters of the Sterling chain s soon-to-be ex-owners.

The official word, from seller Nesnah Ventures of Holmen, Wis., is that the fate of the mascot has not been determined.

We haven t gone that far as to deciding where Sterlena is going to be, said Tim Brennan, Nesnah vice president. There have been a million things discussed as to Sterlena s future. But nothing is set in stone yet.

Sterlena has often loomed large during Fulton County activities. Here she is as the Zenobia Lancers of Toledo drive their cars during Delta s Chicken Festival in 2005. Sterlena has often loomed large during Fulton County activities. Here she is as the Zenobia Lancers of Toledo drive their cars during Delta s Chicken Festival in 2005.

He declined to discuss options under review, but said he doesn t believe the mascot is among assets being sold to the convenience chain s buyer, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., of suburban Montreal. The firm, which is Canada s largest convenience store operator, plans to change the name of the 28 northwest Ohio Sterling stores to its Circle K brand.

As part of the transaction, which participants have predicted will be finished in May, the buyer will close Sterling s headquarters and milk-bottling plant in downtown Wauseon as well as a warehouse in nearby Delta. About 38 people will lose their jobs. The big cow is lodged outside the headquarters.

The sale price of the chain wasn t disclosed, but the parties said the Sterling stores had $170 million in annual sales.

The Sterling chain was started in Wauseon in 1934, but a company history suggests that its bovine mascot was created in 1980 as part of an advertising campaign.

She belongs to our community, said Nikke Dominique, a former Sterling Store employee and member of the Save Sterlena group.

At the annual Christmas parade in nearby Archbold last year, children were excited to see the lights. But their eyes lit up when Sterlena appeared, Ms. Dominique recalled.

The holiday wreath Ms. Dominique draped around its neck for the Archbold event is still there, she said. It makes me smile when I see it, she said.

Some group members have suggested taking up a collection to buy the mascot.

Debbie Nelson, executive director of the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the campaign.

My granddaughter is 5, and she loves her, Ms. Nelson said. I hope Sterlena continues to be part of our community.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:gpakulski@theblade.comor 419-724-6082.

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