Originally created 07/03/97

Christmas in July for fireworks vendors



Fireworks retailers consider this their Christmas in July as they gear up for the biggest selling days of the year.

Veteran vendors say shoppers will be lined out the door today and Friday buying explosives like terrorists at a gun-runners convention. With luck, only a little evening silence will fall prey to Devil's Delight, Mighty Python, Monster Snaps and other incendiaries with names like comic-book villains.

For Diane Moore, owner of Number One Market in North Augusta, selling fireworks fattens the bottom line while introducing customers to the store. "They come in for fireworks and they end up buying a Coke," she said.

Mrs. Moore sells fireworks year-round from a dedicated display, along with fishing bait, snack foods and "firewater." But for Independence Day sales, she has lined up extra help and a separate cash register.

Being so close to the Georgia border, where fireworks sales are illegal, also helps business. "They got to have fun over there, too," she said with a wink.

Down the road at Tacky Tony's, A.D. Brown totals up orders for two businessmen who stock up more than $300 worth apiece. Over the last 17 years, the pair has relied on Mr. Brown for entertainment at an annual party, but they are not typical.

Most orders average $15 to $20, he said.

Mr. Brown, who celebrated his 70th birthday Tuesday without pyrotechnics, uses fireworks to supplement his pension. While still regularly employed, he began the habit of using his vacation to open only a few weeks prior to July Fourth and New Year's Day, but regular customers know they can call him at home.

"It's a scary business," he said, more concerned about going out with a whimper of poor sales than a bang of gunpowder. "You go buy $20,000 of inventory and you see."

With a Bible resting on a box labeled "China's best, an American tradition," Mr. Brown explains that retailing fireworks gives him an opportunity to help other people. He's given discounts to nursing-home residents and extended credit to principals, all in the name of patriotic frivolity.

Across the road, Wacky Wayne's has another approach. This firepower supermarket stays open all year, selling only fireworks, according to Manager William Christman.

He adds 15 to 18 people to handle the holiday crowds, but he insists business is steady all year.

"We keep our billboards up and we catch people on I-20 driving through," said Mr. Christman.