New Law, Heat Wave Bring Ups and Downs for Fireworks Vendors

Jul 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!  As we celebrate our 236th birthday as a nation, you might not see as many fireworks light up the sky this evening.  The long stretch of hot, dry weather we’re experiencing is forcing many local authorities to postpone their fireworks displays.  For fireworks retailers, the season has been a good news, bad news story.  Some vendors are seeing the weather bite into their revenues, but they’re also reveling in a new state law that allows them to sell more pyrotechnics than ever before.

MARK JOSEPH:  My name is Mark Joseph.  I’m the owner of 

KEVIN LAVERY:  You’ve got a stand here at a very busy location; I-96 at the Okemos exit.  How long have you been working here and setting up shop in this area?

JOSEPH:  You know, we’ve been here since Memorial Day weekend, we plan on being here till July 8.  I’m from Okemos originally; I actually pumped gas on this ground when I was in high school.  And we’re just happy to be here selling legalized fireworks.

LAVERY:  What types of fireworks can you sell now that you couldn’t before?

JOSEPH:  Well, basically everything that leaves the ground, so all consumer fireworks are now legal in the state of Michigan.  That’s the aerial repeaters, the rockets, the reloadable mortar shells, the Roman candles, the firecrackers.  That type of stuff.

RANDY GILBERT:  I’m Randy Gilbert.  I’m the manager of this tent (laughs).  I don’t really have a title.  (I’m the) best friend of the owner.  It started out really slow; we started out doing a lot of educating the public.  A lot of people didn’t know that this was legal now to do.  A lot of people walk in there, there’s thinking, OK, where’s your sparklers, where’s your fountains -- and what are these?  They’re pointing to a lot of stuff they’ve never seen before.  So, we take a few minutes with every customer, which we love to do, and explain to them what this product is going to do, how it’s going to perform and some safety tips involved with that.

LAVERY:  In the last few days there’s been a burn ban imposed in the Lansing area because it’s been incredibly dry and hot.  How’s that affecting your sales?

JOSEPH:  You know, it’s not really affecting our sales, and maybe that’s because of the newness of all the consumer fireworks being legal.  But I want to encourage everybody to be safe and think about what they’re doing.  Try to light that stuff off in a cement area or a gravel area.  If you’ve got to be around grass, don’t be afraid to wet that grass down a little bit to give you as much protection as you can, and always have a bucket of water nearby in case you need to put out that firework that’s getting out of hand and not doing what you want it to do.

TROY HEIMSTRA:  I’m Troy Heimstra from Holland, Michigan.  In Holland it’s just as dry.  But my backyard, unfortunately I just got a huge water bill; my yard’s not dry (laughs).  So no; hopefully there’s no problems with it.  But it’s about time they did something like this.  Now I can save gas from driving to Ohio and Indiana and they should have done it years and years ago.  All the money was floating somewhere else.

LAVERY:  Now we’re at a second fireworks tent just off Grand River Avenue in Okemos, and two men are unpacking their boxes of fireworks to set up shop for the day.

JOHN GLOD:  My name is John Glod, and I’m working for Phantom Fireworks.

LAVERY:  It’s been a very hot and dry summer lately and that’s prompted many of the local communities to cancel or postpone their formal fireworks celebrations.  Is that influencing your business?

GLOD:  At first, I’d say no, but over the past couple of days I would agree with that.  We kind of peaked out a good few days ago and then in the past two or three days, as soon as they initiated the (open burn) ban, which we found out about through customers; we weren’t told formally, we definitely noticed a decrease in sales.

LAVERY:  What’s difficult about selling fireworks?

GLOD:  Everything.  Because even if people haven’t checked out other competitors, they’re always going to tell you there’s a lower price.  So, it’s a matter of saying, hey; we’ve got competitive prices, we’ve got high quality products, and you’ve got to just sell them.