Updated: May 24
Karri and Bill Barker opened Barker's Corner Automotive earlier this year, following a plan that has been in the works for years, and that plan is starting to pay off. (Photo by Roger Sims, Linn County Journal)
After Barker's Corner Automotive had a successful grand opening event on Saturday, May 7, owners Brian and Karri Barker are seeing a long-term plan of theirs begin to pay off.
However, bringing that plan to fruition shas had its share of challenges.
The shop, located on the southeast corner of the intersection of Kansas Highway 7 and Kansas Highway 152 (2200 Road) was built with the plan of opening a welding, car, truck and farm machinery repair shop.
Originally, the couple planned to open a welding business, using the shop as a base and purchasing a truck that would serve as a mobile welder.
The original building on the corner was built to be a feed and convenience store. It was later used as a base for a custom farm work company, but the Barkers thought it would work as a shop for a welding outfit. Through his work as a boilermaker, Brian earned his chops as an expert welder, so the couple’s original plan was to focus on building a welding business.
However, in March 2017, a tornado roared through the area, turning the original building Into twisted sheets of metal siding and roofing scattered across nearby fields. It was a bit of bad luck for the Barkers, and they questioned whether they wanted to rebuild or not.
Brian, a former boilermaker, had spent his career working jobs away from home. Both he and Karri wanted him to stay closer to home, and they thought an automotive and welding shop would be the ideal solution.
When they decided to go ahead and put up a new structure, the original design would have been limiting, so when the Barkers had the new building constructed, it was done with a new long-range plan in mind: start an automotive repair business along with welding. One of the bays in the new building is 15 feet wide and will accommodate a combine.
Brian’s father was a master mechanic for a Johnson County Ford dealership, and Brian grew up working on cars with his father in the family’s shop in the Stanley-Stillwell area.
“Brian grew up in a garage,” said Karri. “He ate many a grease-covered peanut butter sandwich.”
Brian continued to work as a boilermaker, spending months away from home at a time. But the couple used his earnings, along with Karri’s, to buy equipment for the building, including hydraulic lifts, a diagnostic computer and a tire machine.
Karri, who works for the Olathe Police Department is a graduate of Prairie View High School, and grew up in the Fontana area. While Brian traveled, she took care of the couple’s blended family, which included both his and her children from previous marriages.
The recent adoption of a teenage girl who came from difficult circumstances, brought the number of children in their family to seven.
Last fall the automotive repair shop in Parker burned, and as it became apparent that it wouldn’t reopen, the couple decided in January to take the next step forward with their plan. They charged into the final details for opening the business.
They purchased a dealership tire machine with what Karri calls the best balancer in the county. They are now looking to add alignment equipment as well.
And it has been successful. In addition to the vehicles on the lot that are awaiting special-order parts, the business has a steady stream of customers, whether it is for an oil change, tire repair, new tires, brake replacement, or engine and hydraulics repairs.
The Barkers are now looking to hire another mechanic to help with the increasing work load.
With business on the increase, Karri said they are feeling more confident in their decision. “We’e been praying and doing what we’ve been led to do for the past few months,“ she said. “I feel like we’ve been led to be doing this.”