By Kalea Hall
John Adams, the second president of the United States, predicted in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that the Fourth of July would be solemnized not only with pomp and parade but with “bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other.”
He was right. So right that today, consumer fireworks are booming with a more than $600 million industry in the states.
Growing revenue is expected to exceed $675 million this year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
“It’s a fun business,” said William Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks. “We are in an entertainment business. No one comes in with a frown on their face. I don’t care how old the man is or what he does for a living. ... The minute he walks past a product, he is 13 years old.”
Since 1977, Phantom Fireworks has offered consumer fireworks in the Valley with a range of products from sparklers to the 500 grams of power packed into one display. Some of these include the Wicked Willows 16-shot and the Stellar Storm.
“It’s the grand finale,” Weimer said. “It is the closest to the professional” fireworks display.
Weimer sits on the board for the American Pyrotechnics Association and is a member of the pyrotechnics committee for the National Fire Protection Association, and various other Phantom leaders work with other committees including the National Council on Fireworks Safety and the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory, which tests the products before they are exported from China to here.
Ninety-eight percent of the product is shipped here from China, Weimer said.
“It’s not that fireworks have been made in China because of cheap labor; it’s because they have been made there for 1,000 years,” Weimer said.
Phantom has two offices in China because of this. When it comes to the fireworks company’s market, Phantom has two divisions: the showroom division and the temporary sales division. It has 69 showrooms in 16 states and approximately 1,300 temporary stands in 16 states.
“Seventy percent of our buying groups are families,” Weimer said. “At the height of percentage, maybe we will have 15 percent of our inventory after this season.”
That season is from April 15 to July 15. Phantom often has to constantly restock the shelves during the busy times of the season. The company boosts employment during the season from 400 to 2,500.
“We live for it,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Heckman placed North Carolina at the top of the list for the fireworks business because the rules on what can be sold there are more lenient compared with other states.
In Ohio, for example, fireworks can be purchased, but the consumer must take them out of state to set them off.
“I think everyone is just fascinated by fireworks, and they would love to be able to do what professionals do,” Heckman said. “The quality of consumer fireworks has improved dramatically since the 1990s.”