Looking for the stores? Just turn at the chicken

Rod Loveless solved the age-old question — which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The 15-foot-tall chicken came first.

The developer of Country Village built the chicken last year. It stands at the entrance to his Bothell shopping center. The matching egg was recently laid in place.

Loveless, who turns 81 Wednesday, solved a modern dilemma, too.

What the heck can be done with big plastic-foam chunks other than sending them to a landfill?

He glued them together and carved the big block into the massive chicken-on-steroids shape. He covered the chicken with fiberglass, added pipe legs and painted it white with black spots. He used plastic foam and fiberglass to make the egg, as well.

Chickens have long been a corporate symbol for the family-owned shopping center that's as different from a strip mall as an omelet is from a bowl of cereal. There are no chain stores among the 40 shops in the 26-year-old Country Village that's like a quirky little town perched between I-405 and downtown Bothell.

Loveless bought the old farm as a place he and his son, Brian, could build sailboats. They dug a pond to test the fiberglass boats and were ready to begin when they discovered zoning didn't match their dream.

So Loveless began fixing up the old farmhouse that stood close to the Bothell-Everett Highway. He rebuilt much of it and was surprised when county inspectors arrived one day, wanting to know why the house hadn't been demolished. It had been condemned. They were so impressed with the work, Loveless recalled, that the inspector issued building permits instead of making them tear the building down.

Then came the antique dealer who rented space for a store.

As soon as Loveless could revamp another farm building, it was rented. He began buying old buildings and moving them to the site. His construction experience paid off. He built new buildings that looked like old ones from salvaged materials.

"I visited old houses I had built and when they were for sale or being remodeled, I'd buy things like cedar siding and shingles and bring them here," Loveless said.

He was driving to work one morning when a radio announcer mentioned that the train cars that made up a restaurant were being auctioned.

"Instead of going to work, I went to the auction," Loveless said. "I couldn't believe how cheap the cars were. So I bought two cabooses and five railroad cars."

All this was a surprise to his wife, who happened to catch the television news at noon and saw Loveless being interviewed at the auction. Loveless resold several of the cars that day. Two train cars and two cabooses were added to the eclectic collection at Country Village.

Today one train car houses a glass studio, another the shopping center's offices. The two cabooses are stores. Loveless purchased surrounding land so the once 3-acre site now is 10 acres.

His penchant for garage sales — ostensibly purchasing things for his family's antique store — was what started Country Village's chicken theme.

"Someone gave me three roosters at a garage sale," he said. "I brought them here and let them go. They became pets."

The three roosters were joined by chickens, ducks and geese and other fowl — a playful addition he thought would add to the farmlike charm. Being semiretired, he runs off to Mexico each winter. So his family deals with the result of his fowl play: keeping donated animals away.

His daughter, Leeann Tesorieri, manages Country Village. She said they're constantly discouraging animal donations. Over the years the family has had to find homes for a pot-bellied pig, a number of rabbits and even a guinea pig in a cage left outside the office.

"I don't know what people are thinking," she said. "Just call us."

She keeps a list of telephone numbers for shelters and individuals who will accept unwanted animals.

Tesorieri and her family love the chickens they do have, particularly the giant one at the front driveway.

"It makes giving directions to Country Village a whole lot easier," she said.

After all, the white-and-black creation couldn't be a more appropriate symbol for Country Village. Local historians say the original farm site was for many years a chicken ranch.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com

Rod Loveless and the 15-foot-tall foam-and-fiberglass chicken at the entrance to Country Village between I-405 and downtown Bothell. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)