Fireworks sales are skyrocketing compared with this time last year, when Northwest Indiana was facing drought conditions.
With the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday — resulting in a long weekend of celebrating for many local residents, store owners hope heavy rains don’t cause sales to fizzle.
Greg Kaplan, owner of Krazy Kaplans Fireworks with four locations in Hammond and stores in Highland, Dyer and LaPorte, voiced optimism.
“Sales started out slow but are picking up every day,” Kaplan said. “We are rolling. We believe it will be better than last year because people are buying for the whole weekend instead of one day. I hope it quits raining. Last year there was not enough rain. This year there is too much.”
Erin McCarthy, assistant manager at Kaplan’s Cline Avenue store, said in just one hour Tuesday morning she sold $3,000 worth of fireworks.
Tom O’Connor, owner of Boomtown Fireworks USA, 3800 E. U.S. 30 in Merrillville, agreed that current sales are brisk compared to last year.
“Sales were down last year because: one, the soft economy; two, July Fourth was mid-week on a Wednesday; and, three, the drought,” O’Connor said. “Lots of places had complete bans on fireworks. This year we are making up for last year. Sales have been extremely encouraging.”
His 16th year in the fireworks business, O’Connor’s store is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and until midnight on weekends.
In business since 1991, Krazy Kaplans Fireworks will be open 8 a.m. until midnight daily to accommodate the pre-holiday rush. Kaplan said the Cline Avenue store is his largest facility, housing 22,000 square feet of merchandise.
Kaplan’s most popular products this year are his advertised “door busters,” including one which features multiple mortar shells for $20.
O’Connor said in the past, bottle rockets, firecrackers and sky rockets were popular items. Now, he said, customers prefer multishot cakes in which one fuse sparks 15 to 20 explosions.
“They want small family shows starting with fountains and getting progressively larger with a grand finale,” O’Connor said.
Both Kaplan and O’Connor said customers should expect lines as the holiday approaches. They both said earlier rather than later is the best time to get personalized customer service.
Both owners also stressed the importance of safety when lighting fireworks. They said eye protection via glasses is key, though often overlooked. People lighting fireworks should also make sure there is adequate air space for the items being used, and plenty of room between spectators and the fireworks. And children should always be supervised near fireworks, they said.
“Use common sense,” Kaplan said. “Have a garden hose there.”
Kaplan recommended designating a sober adult, who is wearing eye protection, long sleeves and long pants with no loose clothing, to light the fireworks. He also advised reading warning labels.
“If one does not fire or it misfires don’t go up and relight it but pour some water on it,” Kaplan said. “To me safety is No. 1.”