Some years ago, Brandon Gordon's dad gave his son a virtual fistful of Universal Product Codes and told him to do something with them. The younger Gordon told his father he was crazy, that nobody wanted to buy these things. Brandon Gordon, 23, chuckled last week as he remembered that conversation. He has now sold 8.8 million of them.
The bold sign over his business, in the Brook Plaza Shopping Center at Ponce De Leon Boulevard and S Broad Street near downtown Brooksville, reads Bar Codes Talk. Some inquisitive walk-ins have expected a bar selling alcoholic beverages.
The only product, however, is UPCs and their European equivalent, EANs or European Article Numbers. The business also prints the bar codes onto stickers, labels or tags that ultimately will identify an article and its price.
When the international nonprofit regulator and distributor of bar codes first made them available, Brandon's father, Robert Gordon, who moved his family from Lady Lake to Brooksville in 2005, foresaw an opportunity and scooped them up in bulk.
"We are kind of a resale house, a reseller," said Jonathan Gould, 27, general manager of Bar Codes Talk.
Gould explained the product:
Each code is unique through its sequence of numerals, bars and spaces. Arranging the elements differently leads to "an almost infinite number of codes." According to law, any one code may have only a single, dedicated use.
"No hidden data is within a bar code. The seller puts the price in," Gould noted.
Demand for the digital codes continues as more products go to market and most sellers require the products they buy wholesale be affixed with bar codes.
"The best example of what's happening," said Gould, "(is) tons of people want to sell on Amazon, and they accept just about everyone, but they require a new product to have a bar code."
How to obtain a UPC? An inventor or maker finds Bar Codes Talk among UPC sellers on the Internet.
Five years ago, Brandon Gordon, a 2008 graduate of Nature Coast Technical High School, took over the family-and-friends company, founded in a home-based office in 1993 to market credit cards. Taking the bar code division online, he said, "made all the difference," made its goods available to an international market.
Gould, a childhood friend, joined the company three years ago. Last year, the company added two employees and moved into the storefront at 650 S Broad St.
"We've sold more than any other such company for a legal bar code seller," Gould claims, noting its websites in India, China and the United Kingdom as well as the United States.
"We deal largely with inventors who get into the mom-and-pop stores, some expanding from farmers markets and want to sell in markets around town."
On a recent day, Gould tapped into his computer and read that 3 1/2 minutes previously a church purchased five codes from Bar Codes Talk.
"We don't know what they'll be used for. We don't ask them. It's none of our business," Gould said.
One bar code costs $5 at Bar Codes Talk. The company solicits big orders by discounting bulk sales, priced as little as 5 cents each for 10,000 different codes.
"Some companies like ours charge $89 for one bar code," Gould said.
Rather than explaining how Bar Codes Talk sells so inexpensively, he replied, 'We don't know how other companies charge so much."
Most challenging in establishing the business, said Gordon, who is married and has two children with his wife, Nelsie, was dealing with bureaucracy — "everything you have to do through the government, meeting all the rules and regulations."
Most rewarding has been making his father's foresight a reality.
"It is an amazing thing to watch something grow, and helping other small businesses grow as well," he said.
Walk-in customers are welcome, but most buyers place their orders online, where service is available 24/7.
A rolling number on the website reports the number of bar codes purchased — 8,837,632 a week ago — revealing sales of more than 200,000 just in the previous week.
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]