Bob's Barricades: The man behind it all

News 6 anchor Ginger Gadsden travels to South Fla. to meet man behind barricades

By Ginger Gadsden - Anchor

If you've driven through just about any construction zone in Central Florida, you've seen them-- bright orange cones, message boards and barricades-- even those signs warning of danger or construction ahead.

[WEB EXTRA: Bob's Barricades ]

And you can't miss the name Bob's Barricades prominently featured on the equipment.

So is there actually a real Bob? Who is the man behind Bob's Barricades?

Turns out he's Happy.

Not just about the way business is booming, but his name is Happy-- Happy Alter. He said he's asked all the time about his name. He said they called him 'Happy' because he was smiling even when he was in his crib.

Alter and his partner Alan Chesler have owned Bob's Barricades for more than 40 years.

"We bought the company from James A. Ryder himself," said Alter. "It was only a one-branch operation, and it was Bob then."

They kept the name because so many of their managers and supervisors over the years have been named Bob, and it had a certain ring to it.

"We could have called it Happy and Alan's, but the name Bob's, I don't know if you think about the kids playing with toys, Bob the Builder, and all that but it seems to be a name people like," said Alter.

Seeing the name of a barricade company plastered everywhere on equipment meant to keep people safe is no accident.

"When people think of tissue, they think of Kleenex and when people think of barricades or barrels, they think of Bob's Barricades," said Alter.

It is the largest privately owned barricade company in the country. Bob's Barricades has close to a couple of million of pieces of equipment on the 21-mile stretch of the multi-billion dollar I-4 Ultimate Project. Back at  their South Florida headquarters, they are prepared to deliver more signs and barricades if needed.

"This is the largest job in the history of Florida," said Alter.

Alter and Chesler said they researched dozens of businesses, but decided on barricades based on one keen observation.

"Florida is going to grow and we'll grow with it," said Chesler.

Growth has been tremendous. They wouldn't say how much they paid Ryder for the company 40 years ago, nor will they discuss what the company is worth today. They insist it's not about money, but keeping motorists and contractors safe.

"Without any construction, without anything going on, lives are at stake because of the heavily trafficked highway that I-4 is," said Alter.

Alter takes safety seriously, but he's also led an interesting life outside of the barricade business.

One of his closest friends is Mohammad Ali. He knew Ali when Ali was still Cassius Clay. He and The Champ would often just hang out. Alter said he remembers when Ali invited him to a photo shoot with a new band with an unusual name.

"'Come see The Cockroaches and then we'll go have dinner', so I didn't bother going, you know, so many groups were coming from all over," said Alter. "When I turned on the TV that night, it was The Beatles! He called them The Cockroaches. I have the picture where he's standing with his foot on them."

Just as there will never be another champ like Ali in the ring, Alter hopes Bob's Barricades will continue to reign as king of the road.

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