2008-02-27 / Front Page

Sterlena Pride Dairy Co-Op Opens In Old Sterling Plant

From left, Roger Beck, rural Archbold, Bruce Yancey, Archbold, and Richard Rufenacht, Pettisville, watch while crates of milk travel on a conveyor at the Sterlena Pride Dairy Cooperative production facility in Wauseon. The cooperative held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Feb. 22. Beck and Rufenacht are dairy farmers who will provide milk to the cooperative; Yancey is an investor. - photo by David Pugh From left, Roger Beck, rural Archbold, Bruce Yancey, Archbold, and Richard Rufenacht, Pettisville, watch while crates of milk travel on a conveyor at the Sterlena Pride Dairy Cooperative production facility in Wauseon. The cooperative held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Feb. 22. Beck and Rufenacht are dairy farmers who will provide milk to the cooperative; Yancey is an investor. - photo by David Pugh The former Sterling Milk Company dairy, located in downtown Wauseon, has restarted operations, naming itself after a fiberglass cow.

The Sterlena Pride Dairy Cooperative dairy cooperative is named after Sterlena, the former company mascot. The giant plastic cow has been a fixture in Northwest Ohio parades.

Monty Lorntz, president of the cooperative, said it took courage to restart the business in light of the current economic situation, "but we knew this was a tremendous product. We knew the Goldsmith family (the founders of the company) had done a great job with it. It was a project worth tackling."

The cooperative was formed with 38 investors from throughout the tri-states of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, who bought the dairy operation from Nesnah Ventures, Inc., LaCrosse, Wis.

Nesnah had purchased the dairy and Sterling chain of 28 convenience stores from the Goldsmiths in 2001.

While the cooperative was able to purchase the dairy, they could not purchase the former Sterling name; and the fate of Sterlena, the company's advertising icon, was unknown.

Press reports say as many as 300 persons banded together in a campaign to keep Sterlena in Wauseon.

Production at the Wauseon dairy started Friday, Feb. 15; a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday, Feb. 22.

Trust

Lorntz, who is from Pleasant Lake, Ind., said the cooperative will, "provide the community with a product they grew up with, and we have great trust that they will support it."

The dairy will buy as much milk from local dairy farms, including those in the Archbold, Fayette, Pettisville, and Ridgeville Corners areas, as they can.

"As we grow, we'll have to expand out," he said.

Nesnah shut down the dairy operation last year. Lorntz said when the Sterlena Pride crew arrived, the equipment was al- most ready to start operations.

"We just had to do some changes, nothing drastic. There was a lot of clean-up," he said.

The staff working at Sterlena Pride are all former Sterling Milk Company employees.

Lorntz said it will be two to five years before the Sterlena Pride Dairy Cooperative becomes a profitable operation.

History

A history of the Sterling Milk Company said the firm started in Wauseon in January 1934, when Peter J. Goldsmith turned his North Fulton Street feed sales room into a soda fountain.

The soda fountain grew into a dairy production plant, the convenience store chain, and even a downtown Wauseon restaurant.

Peter Goldsmith died in 1975, leaving the company to his son, Marvin.

Marvin Goldsmith retired in 2001 and sold the business to Nesnah.

In early 2007, Amilentation Couche-Tard, a firm based in Quebec, Canada, purchased the 28 convenience stores from Nesnah, adding them to Couche- Tard's American subsidy, Circle K. The Sterling Stores, including the Archbold store, became Circle K outlets.

Support

Sterlena Pride products, including milk, cottage cheese, and the company's locallypopular chip dip, are available in area stores, including Archbold.

Lorntz said the cooperative, "had received a lot of support from the stores.

"A lot of stores want the product back, because they knew the people would buy it," he said.

Bruce Yancey, Archbold, one of the investors in the project, said reopening the dairy, "has been a challenge, meeting all the state regulations, but it's been a good challenge," he said.

Yancey said he's been involved in dairy operations his entire life, including milking cows for a number of years. His father had been involved in a milk production company.

He and his wife saw the Sterlena Pride cooperative as, "something we wanted to get involved in.

"We think it's a good project for the community, as well as Northwest Ohio."

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