Originally created 07/03/05

Carolina fireworks sales could boom despite Georgia business



NORTH AUGUSTA - Business for South Carolina fireworks retailers could boom or bust this Fourth of July.

With the passage of a new law in Georgia that permits the sale of some fireworks in the state, competition between fireworks vendors in Georgia and South Carolina could have ignited.

However, Brian Talbert, the district manager of Wacky Wayne's Fireworks in Aiken and North Augusta, didn't seem too concerned about the prospect of vying with Georgia vendors for business.

In fact, he said, the new laws might add some spark to their sales.

"We definitely have had more people come in from Georgia," he said. "The first season we're going to see an impact, but we don't know which direction it's going in yet."

Most people buy fireworks at the last minute, he said, so he will not know how his business has been affected until the holiday is over.

However, Robert Ginn, the manager of Fox Creek Junction in North Augusta, said this year's sales were 20 percent ahead of last year's figures.

"I was kind of surprised," he said. "I've had quite a few people come in and say they are disillusioned by what they found over there."

Wire sparklers, sparkling fountains that contain as much as 75 grams of explosive chemical compound, snappers and glow worms are legal in Georgia. Aerial fireworks are not permitted.

"We also have had an influx of people who think all fireworks are legal in Georgia," Mr. Talbert said.

Almost all consumer fireworks are legal in South Carolina.

"If everything was legal (in Georgia)," Mr. Ginn said, "then, of course, it would take my business."

However, he said he has had plenty of customers from Georgia buy "the things that explode and go bang and are big."

A.D. Brown, the owner of Tacky Tony Fireworks in North Augusta, said 90 percent of his customers are from Georgia.

"I don't know that it's helped (business)," he said of Georgia's new law. "It hasn't hurt us."

Mr. Talbert said he would have a better idea of how the Georgia law has affected sales by New Year's Eve or next year's Fourth of July.

Lynn Melton, of Grovetown, amassed a basketful of pyrotechnics at Wacky Wayne's in North Augusta.

"The ones the kids like, they don't sell over there," she said.

Mrs. Melton, whose four children range in age from 19 to 24, said she bought a few fireworks in Georgia.

"If I had younger (children), I definitely would have just bought over there," she said.

Another Wacky Wayne's customer, Rick Hornbeck, of Atlanta, supported the General Assembly's action.

"I think it keeps the money in the state," he said. "I think they realize that a lot of the money is going to South Carolina and Alabama."

Nevertheless, Mr. Hornbeck, who was in town on business, made his annual pilgrimage to Wacky Wayne's.

"I come up here once a year," he said. "I guess I'm loyal."

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

GEORGIA FIREWORKS

In general, if it explodes or "propels like a rocket," it's still illegal in Georgia. But here's what the new fireworks law actually says is OK and what's not:

WHAT'S ALLOWED: Wire sparklers, sparkling fountains containing 75 grams or less of an explosive chemical compound, snappers, glow worms

WHAT'S ILLEGAL: Roman candles, cherry bombs, any firework that shoots in the air before exploding, wire sparklers with more than 100 grams of an explosive chemical compound

Sources: The Associated Press, Office of the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue