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Firework sales could soar to new heights, vendors say

Firework sales this year in the Red River Valley could fly above last season's, with record sales in Grand Forks and Fargo possible, vendors say. Customers looking to start the holiday with a bang started to trickle into firework businesses this ...

Mark Fredrickson, left, looks at the options of large sparklers as he finishes his order with Memory Fireworks employee Mike Jacobson on Thursday, June 29, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Forum News Service)
Mark Fredrickson, left, looks at the options of large sparklers as he finishes his order with Memory Fireworks employee Mike Jacobson on Thursday. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

Firework sales this year in the Red River Valley could fly above last season's, with record sales in Grand Forks and Fargo possible, vendors say.

Customers looking to start the holiday with a bang started to trickle into firework businesses this week, hoping to get their hands on household favorites: from firecrackers to multi-shot grand finales. Families are expected to flood stores this weekend as Independence Day approaches, firework experts said.

"So far, preseason sales have been up," said Ron Knutson, manager for Memory Fireworks in eastern North Dakota. "Sales have been ahead of prior years, even though we expected them to be flat because the Fourth falls on a (Tuesday)."

North Dakotans can legally take home fireworks from June 27 through July 5, as well as Dec. 26 through New Year's Eve, but that doesn't mean they can't order them ahead of time. Fireworks businesses like Memory, a 40-year-old family business that has locations in Devils Lake, Grand Forks and most of North Dakota, have been taking orders for weeks. Some come into the stores to pick out their fireworks early, giving them a feeling of not being rushed and allowing employees to serve them better. Then the stores can set customer selections aside until the legal pickup dates.

"A lot of people like to shop early," Knutson said. "All they have to do is stop and pick them up."

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Customers from other states and Canada can buy in North Dakota outside the designated times, though they may need permits to do so. Minnesota, for example, does not have restrictions on when residents can buy fireworks.

There is a lot of buildup and excitement leading up to the holiday, said Brad Schmitz, co-owner of Black Powder Fireworks. The West Fargo-based family company has stores in Devils Lake and south of Grand Forks and has been selling fireworks in North Dakota for 12 years.

A drought in west and central North Dakota may put a damper firework sales, especially in counties that have issued burn bans. However, Schmitz and Knutson expect sales in the Valley to exceed last year's numbers.

"We're hoping for record sales in both Fargo and Grand Forks," Schmitz said. "The way it is shaping up, we have a pretty good shot at that."

Year-round business

The firework season may appear short to most, but vendors plan out what they will carry months in advance.

"Right now, I'm already ordering fireworks for next year, said Jane Breyer, general manager for Generous Jerry's Fireworks. "It's definitely a year-long business."

Some fireworks businesses travel to China to scope out their products, and by February, what they ordered arrives in North Dakota.

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It may not look like a year-long business, but a lot of work goes into a few days of fun, Knutson said.

"In order to do it right and to get the product we are getting, it's a full-time job for about five different employees," he said. "It's something that only a few people do all year, but the other 300 people have other jobs and do other things."

Headquartered west of Grand Forks, Generous Jerry's started as a mom and pop shop but spread across North Dakota, Minnesota and into Wisconsin. Now in its 47th year, family members come from out of state to help the business, Breyer said.

"It's kind of a neat business because in the summer everybody gets together," she said. "I have a brother who comes from Memphis (Tenn.), one comes in from Arizona."

But like consumers who anticipate the season, there is a build up then a rush for businesses. Breyer said she likes her customers and employees to work as a team and have fun.

"I tell my employees that if you are not having fun, there is something wrong," she said. "My goal is that it needs to be a job where people want to come to work."

There are various fireworks companies selling in the Grand Forks areas, and the must-have seem to get bigger and better every year.

Independence Day is a family holiday-for some, it is their favorite holiday, Knutson said.

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Schmitz said he sells fireworks because, like many, he fell in love with them.

"I loved them as a kid," Schmitz said. "I never dreamed in a million years that I would be selling them."

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