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2009 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Carl H. Ricker, Jr.

Founder, Chairman and CEO, Azalea Holdings
Former Partner, Campus Crest Communities & Chairman, Gensys Ballasts

"Be on the lookout for opportunities and be prepared for them when they come your way."

Carl Ricker was born in a small mill house in western North Carolina in 1943. His father worked for the tannery that owned the mill house. Soon after Ricker was born, his father entered the Army and fought in the Pacific during World War II. His father returned to their home at the end of the war, but was killed in a car accident in 1948. Ricker moved with his mother to Asheville, North Carolina, to be near his mother's sister. They lived in a 28-foot trailer they bought with the proceeds from his father's GI life insurance policy. They had no phone, bathroom, or automobile. Still, his mother gave him a loving home environment with clean clothes and three meals a day on only their social security payments of $64 a month.

Ricker attended high school, but never graduated. Still, he was a strong believer in education and after his discharge from the Army went to night classes on the GI bill for five years at the University of North Carolina in Asheville while he ran his auto business. At the age of 16, he got a job working seven days a week in a Billups service station. Many times he walked the six miles to be at work by six in the morning, but he almost always hitchhiked home. In addition to pumping gas, he kept the books for the station manager. When he was 17, Billups sent him to manage one of their stations in Greenville, South Carolina, which was the one of the least efficient of their 100 stores in the Southeast. Ricker made it into one of the top three stations in the chain by going to the Air Force base nearby to sell tires and other car accessories.

Billups sent Ricker to two other stations to turn them around. After those successes, Billups offered him the management position over one of their largest stations in West Palm Beach, Florida. He jumped at the opportunity. Once he was in Florida, Ricker met a Coca Cola distributor who he went to work for delivering Coca Colas in Delray Beach and Palm Beach. A year later he was offered a better job with Billups working the whole state of Florida. He held this job until he was drafted in 1967. He served in the Army during the next three years spending 13 months on the demilitarized zone in Korea.

In 1967, Ricker opened a used car business with his uncle, called Carver and Ricker Motors. He started with $740 and a loan of $5,000. In 1968, the business moved into recreational vehicles sales and became the second largest RV dealer on the East Coast for 1971. In 1981, he bought land in Asheville to build and lease back a Shoney's restaurant and an Allstate office. He began investing in land and building Hardees restaurants and other commercial buildings, and bought and built shopping centers across the Southeast. Eventually, he owned and operated 105 Hardees restaurants. After selling those properties, he became one of the largest private real estate investors in the Southeast, which he controls through his companies, Azalea Holdings, Azalea Management and Azalea Limited Partnership. He is also serves as a real estate partner in Campus Crest Communities, a provider of housing for college students. Ricker is chairman of the Executive Committee of Capital Bank, as well as Capital Bank Holding Co.

A believer in helping others to achieve their dreams, Ricker is active with the University of North Carolina in Asheville, Boys Clubs of America, Hospice of Western North Carolina, and Mission Children's Hospital.