WAUSEON -While rival groups conduct a light-hearted Internet debate over the value of its bovine mascot, the Sterling convenience store chain is talking to prospective buyers regarding its soon-to-close milk-bottling plant.
Three bidders have emerged for the Sterling Dairy here, said Tim Brennan, vice president of owner Nesnah Ventures, Holmen, Wis.
The plant produces 150,000 gallons of milk daily along with cottage cheese, chip dip, and sour cream, according to a local economic development official.
Mr. Brennan would not identify the suitors or say when talks might conclude, but added that Sterling wants to sell the plant before it closes.
Although Sterling hasn't said publicly when it will close the operation, that likely will occur before new owners take over 28 Sterling Stores scattered across northwest Ohio.
Purchaser Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., of suburban Montreal, hopes to complete the store purchase this month.
Alimentation will fold Sterling stores into its Circle K chain, but doesn't want the dairy plant or a related distribution center in Delta. The deal affects about 38 Sterling employees in Fulton County at corporate offices, the distribution center, and the dairy.
Store employees are unlikely to be affected, officials said.
Lisa Arend, economic development director in Fulton County, was unsure how many of the 38 employees work at the dairy.
But word of a possible sale is good news, she said. "We'd like to get someone to come in and keep producing milk," she added.
If the dairy is sold, the deal likely would include the chain's 14-foot fiber-glass cow mascot, said Mr. Brennan, of Nesnah Ventures.
"Everybody we're talking to has said that they would want Sterlena to be part of it," he added.
The mascot, a feature of local parades and civic events since 1980, has become something of a cause celebre locally.
A group that claims more than 500 members, many of them young adults, has formed on the social-networking Web site Facebook.com to keep the mascot in Wauseon. "I don't want her to leave," one woman wrote.
That group has been joined on the Web site by alleged opposition - a "Kill Sterlena" faction. "This is for all the people that hate that Golden Calf everyone is worshipping," sponsors wrote.
Although many of the writers on the site clearly were having fun with the subject, others were motivated by childhood nostalgia.
Nikki Dominique said yesterday that she and a number of other members of the pro-Sterlena group would like the mascot to be moved to a permanent site at the Fulton County fairgrounds.
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