The Owners – Herb and Gloria Barker
In 1948, shortly after they were married, Herb and Gloria started a business based on their idea of imprinting company names on promotional objects, and Barker Specialty Company was born. Working long hours side-by-side, Herb and Gloria grew their small business into a multi-million dollar company. They had four children who learned all aspects of the business as they accompanied their parents to trade shows and conventions. Gloria and Herb were proud that Gerry, Steven, Adrienne and Amy all participated in the family business, and have taken over the operation of Barker Specialty entirely. With 85 associates, the company is considered one of the ‘Top 30 Promotional Products Dealer’ in the USA. The Barker Family Companies were awarded ‘Family Business of the Year’ in 2002 by UCONN.
Herb Barker was a United States Army Veteran having served with the Signal Corps during the Korean War and received an honorable discharge in 1951. In 1990, Herb was nominated ‘Boss of the Year’ for the State of Connecticut by the Connecticut Jaycees. In 1997, Herbert Barker received the honorary degree of “Doctor of Humane Letters” from Briarwood College, Southington, Connecticut in recognition of his years of community service to New England cities and the State of Connecticut. Gloria and Herb were patrons of the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc., grand benefactors of the Florida Grand Opera and members of The Opera Guild of Fort Lauderdale 21st Century Fund.
Gloria and Herb began collecting animation art and collectibles in the 1960’s. Today in Cheshire, Connecticut, stands the largest animation and entertainment art gallery in the world consisting of 30,000 square feet of retail, wholesale, and corporate headquarters. The Barker Animation Art Gallery had its Grand Opening in West Hartford in 1993 and opened its second location in Cheshire in 1994. In 1995, operations moved to the Barker complex in Cheshire, where it has remained ever since. The Gallery maintains a large collection of vintage and current artwork from the top artists in the field of animation and character driven art. To give this artwork even more exposure to the public, Gloria and Herb opened new galleries in The Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, FL; The Promenade at Coconut Creek in Coconut Creek, FL; and The Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, CT.
Another popular feature of the Barker complex in Cheshire is The Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum, which exhibits over 80,000 character themed toys and artifacts. The museum attracts over 30,000 visitors every year, coming from all over the world to see this unique museum. It is the only museum in the United States to focus exclusively on character-themed toys and artifacts.
Gloria and Herb always took an active role in their community with a special interest in children’s charities. Gloria was a Life Member and Keeper of the Gate for Hadassah, active with the Curtis Home for Children and was Chairman of the Human Rights Commission. In 1998, Gloria and Herb began donating some of their art collection to neighboring cities, churches and synagogues, YMCAs, American Red Cross, Connecticut Association of Schools, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Harold Leever Cancer Center, Hospital for Special Care, MidState Medical Center, Myth Youth Foundation, New Britain General Hospital, Operation Respect CT, and UCONN Health Center, totaling over one million dollars’ worth of art donations. They continued their work after moving to Florida by declaring 2012 as “The Year of Art for Health” and by donating artwork to many of the area hospitals.
Herb and Gloria shared a close partnership, in work as in life, celebrating a marriage that spanned 69 years. The poem that they chose for their mausoleum to summarize their love was written by John Keats:
“Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one.”