Slow start to fireworks sales

Published 4:57 pm Friday, July 2, 2010

Staring up at the 50-foot-long wall of bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers and artillery shells, a young man and his girlfriend, in their 20s are greeted by Shiloh Luster.

Luster is working for Bethel Worship Center in Wetumpka to sell fireworks to fund the church’s youth group on a trip to Detroit, Mich., where they will compete in a national fine arts competition. She and other Ignite Ministries youth members operate the TNT Fireworks store in the Walmart parking lot off of US Higway 31.

Luster approaches the couple, curious about their choices.

“Are y’all looking to buy for kids?” she asks them.

After a long pause, the young lady speaks for both of them.

“He likes to have fun, too,” she says, as the young man studies the wall.

Clanton residents can find plenty of fireworks in time for this Fourth of July. They could see a stand every other mile on the local roads.

While it’s taking a while for sales to get going at the rate vendors would like to see, numbers are steadily increasing as the clock winds down to the big holiday.

Luster said their stand in the Walmart parking lot, which arrived last Monday, pulled in $1,600 on Thursday. That’s reassuring for their youth members, whose praise band placed first at a state competition and video team placed second.

Not 100 yards away from that stand is Fish’s Fireworks, also off of U.S. 31, which also donates its proceeds to a nearby church youth group. Young members of First Assembly of God are raising money for a future trip. Stand employee and Chilton County High School graduate Justin Adams said the stand is performing well so far, having earned a helpful $600 and seeing heavy traffic as of early Friday afternoon.

Fish’s has been open for two weeks. It is overseen by youth pastor Aaron Argo.

Vendors were hoping for business to really pick up by Friday afternoon. Keith Powell, owner of Lil Suzy Q’s Fireworks on Lay Dam Road wasn’t worried about the calm waters. After selling fireworks for nearly 14 years, he’s used to the sales patterns.

“It’s always slow around this time,” he said. “People buy them on the last two or three days before the Fourth.”

One woman in his store offered her two cents as to why buyers aren’t turning in droves.

“People ain’t got no money,” she said. “This is a recession.”

Graham Dunn, manager of TNT Fireworks on U.S. 31 next to Rite Aid, agreed with Powell that he’d likely see more customers late Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.

Dunn and his son Mark, 14, drive from Montgomery every day to operate the TNT stand. He said bottle rockets are his biggest seller so far, though he anticipated the larger artillery shells to start selling by Saturday. But most customers keep the young ones in mind while making any purchases.

“Very few people walk up without a child in tow,” he said. “If they don’t, most are buying for kids anyway.”