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Bubba gets new name, home (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
June 30, 2014 at 1:30 a.m.
Updated July 1, 2014 at 2:01 a.m.

Jason Luck, Wilkinson Pre-Owned Supercenter general sales manager, left, shakes Bubba's hand as he talks about how glad they are to have him at the supercenter in Victoria. "He's Bubba Wilkinson now; he's one of us," he said.

Victoria's famous gorilla has a new home and a new name: Bubba Wilkinson.

Saturday, Bubba relocated to the corner of Navarro and Huvar street, said Jason Luck.

After learning Tom's Vacuum Center was closing, Luck, 39, was determined to become Bubba's new adoptive family.

"I want Bubba," the general sales manager of Wilkinson Pre-Owned Supercenter said.

He read the story May 20 about Tom's Vacuum Center owner Jan Bleeker not knowing what to do with the iconic gorilla once the business closed.

When Luck's receptionist, Anita Casares, 34, came in that morning, Bubba's future hung in the balance.

"I said, 'Call over there and find out,'" he said. "Me wanting Bubba was a severe understatement. I wanted to make sure we got him."

Bleeker, 66, said she was surprised to pick up the phone and receive an offer for her beloved gorilla.

Bleeker and Casares talked on the phone and soon after reached an agreement and a "rehoming fee," Luck said.

"I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal," Bleeker said, adding she's happy to know he has a new home.

Bleeker said she received about 30 calls following the call from Casares asking about Bubba's future.

But Bleeker stayed true to the agreement and told the other callers she already promised Bubba to someone else.

"They were the first ones that made us an offer, so I said, 'OK,'" she said.

Bubba has been a Victoria landmark for travelers and area natives since 1978.

"We had a lot of good years with Bubba. It's time for him to move on," Bleeker said.

Bubba is one of the first things Luck said he remembers when he moved to Victoria.

He saw Bubba 20 years ago at the corner of Rio Grande and Navarro streets while he waited for a ride at the bus station where New Rodeo now operates.

Luck had stepped off a bus from Fort Worth and said he was perplexed by the small-town landmark standing on the corner of the intersection.

Casares remembers growing up in Victoria and joking with her family that Bubba looked like her grandpa.

Naturally, when Luck mentioned the idea of adopting Bubba, she said she thought it was a great idea.

"Everyone knows who Bubba is," she said.

Bleeker included the large cardboard box where Bubba's wardrobe was stowed away between seasons and holidays. There were some T-shirts, a mask and replacement hands, she said.

Believe it or not, Luck said it's hard to find a shirt that fits the newest member of the Wilkinson family because he wears a 6XL size T-shirt.

He plans to add more to Bubba's wardrobe in the future, but for now, he'll wear a USA soccer T-shirt and a woven hat to shield him from the sun.

"He likes being outdoors and seeing all the people," he said about Bubba. "He likes the weather, and everyone can see him."



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