Local businessman and former Apex mayor Bob Barker has become a very wealthy man as owner of the world’s largest prison supply company.
Today, the multi-million dollar Bob Barker Company does business in all 50 states and more than a dozen foreign countries.
But in 1972, the fledgling business began with a $2,500 loan and a small setup in the back of a barber shop at 123 N. Salem St. in downtown Apex.
Barker spoke about his humble beginnings last week during an Apex Town Council meeting.
He gave copies of his new book, “I’m In Cells,” to Mayor Keith Weatherly, all five councilmen and Town Manger Bruce Radford. The semi-autobiography details the history of the Fuquay-Varina-based company as well as Barker’s strong ties to Apex.
“We lived in Apex for 24 years, from 1964 to 1988,” said Barker. “We loved it. All our children were educated here and we were very active in the community. We really didn’t want to leave but an opportunity opened up in Fuquay-Varina.”
Barker read a short piece from his book that told how the town was able to secure the current chamber of commerce building from the railroad company. Barker was mayor at the time and played a key role in the process.
“I thought (the book) might be of some interest for the town historically,” said Barker, who also served as mayor of Fuquay-Varina.
“The success of your company is no secret around here,” said Weatherly. “I’ll have to get some tips from you on how to deal with the railroad.”
As Barker turned to leave, Councilman Bill Jensen half-jokingly suggested Barker relocate to Apex.
“If you ever need a bigger building let us know,” said Jensen.
Weatherly quickly followed up the offer by hinting that the massive Veridea development had plenty of space to offer.
“We have 1,000 acres and they are looking for tenants,” said Weatherly.
Barker laughed and assured town leaders that he was quite happy in Fuquay-Varina.