A Canton-based family-operated dairy has purchased the building and assets of the former Sterlena Pride dairy cooperative in downtown Wauseon.
Emil Soehnlen, spokesman for the Canton-based Superior Dairy, said the purchase price has not been disclosed, but court records indicate Superior paid Farmers & Merchants State Bank $352,000 for the building and property.
The Wauseon dairy began as a feed store. In 1934, Peter J. Goldsmith switched from selling feed to operating a soda fountain. That grew into a dairy production operation.
At its height, Sterling Milk Company operated the dairy, a chain of convenience stores extending as far as Toledo, and a downtown Wauseon restaurant.
In 2001, Sterling Milk Company was sold to a Wisconsin firm. It sold the convenience store chain to a Canadian company in 2007. The former Sterling Milk stores now go under the name of Circle K.
In February 2008, Sterlena Pride, named after Sterling’s giant fiberglass cow used in parades and other advertising venues, took over operation of the plant.
Sterlena Pride later was forced to shut down. Superior
Soehnlen said Superior is a family-run business founded by his great-great grandfather almost 100 years ago.
“We’re a small company, relative to our competition,” he said.
“We’ve been a blue-collar, roll-up-your-sleeves, get-towork kind of business,” he said. The company has been working with an innovative packaging technology called the caseless milk container.
The container holds three liters, or about three quarts, of milk. It’s smaller and easier to handle than the regular jug, but some critics say pouring milk is more difficult.
For the company, the caseless milk container means containers can be stacked without crates, making room for more milk on a delivery truck. Wauseon
Soehnlen said Superior became interested in the Wauseon operations based on several factors.
“It’s got a reputation for quality, and it’s located in a very large population of dairy farms. We need good milk. We have to have a good quality milk supply,” he said.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is dairy farming isn’t easy. Businesses all have their challenges, but keeping a (dairy) herd healthy and keeping the milk clean isn’t easy.”
The purchase of the Wauseon operation gives Superior a redundant facility. If something happens at Canton to shut down operations, product can be shipped from Wauseon.
The sale of the dairy closed in early February. Soehnlen said it’s premature to say when operations can begin again.
The plant has been idle for about a year. Superior offi cials will have to determine what needs to be done to the plant to start the production line.
Company officials have no idea how many employees they will need.
Soehnlen said the company has hired one former employee.
“Like everything, it will move slowly,” he said. Chip Dip
One thing Sterling Milk Company, and later, Sterlena Pride, were famous for was their chip dip.
“Multiple people have mentioned it,” Soehnlen said.
“As part of our due diligence, we interviewed people, and that’s something everyone talked about. They rave about it,” he said.
If Superior can make the chip dip, it will, he said.
“We’re very excited” about the future of the Wauseon plant, he said.