People still lighting up skies although holidays over

Published 7:56 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

The holidays have ended, road trips are in the rearview mirror and routines have gone back to normal.

But even after Jan. 1, fireworks stores in Selma still remained open.

Hoping for one more push to extend the life of a busy sales season?

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Not really. Fireworks stands everywhere keep the doors open for several reasons.

Just call it good customer service.

“We stay open to exchange any duds,” said Pam Palmer, general manager of Crazy Bill’s Fireworks, which operates 100 stores in Alabama. “Other people just shut up and run. We don’t do that.”

Although the economy’s steep slide hasn’t shown a decrease in sales, Palmer said it affected the timing of purchases.

People who felt the crunch after buying holiday gifts and paying for other expenses related to the season pushed family fireworks shows to the backseat.

But a belated party is better than no party show at all.

“People have a lot to celebrate this year,” Palmer said. “Especially in areas that are primarily black, with the election of Barack Obama, people celebrated more this year.”

Sally Knight and Kathy Turner sat in USA Fireworks on Citizens Parkway counting receipts during what looked like a slow day.

People slipped in and out of the store from time to time, though nowhere near as many as on New Year’s Eve.

The downtime affords them an opportunity to give the merchandise a firsthand quality inspection. It’s one of the many perks of the job.

“We get to test the fireworks, and that way we can sell them better because we can tell people how they work,” Knight said. “It costs us money because we do have to pay for them, but it’s well worth it.”

With names like “One Bad Mother-In-Law,” “The Beast” and “America’s Celebration” splashed across boxes, it’s safe to assume almost no one can walk out the door disappointed.

Some items cost less than $1, while others reach into the hundreds.

It sounds like a lot, but Turner isn’t surprised that people will spend money to put on a good show.

“We had a group come up from Miami going to a hunting club, and they can’t shoot fireworks down there so they shoot them off in the woods out here,” Turner said.

One of the most popular items at USA Fireworks was the family pack, which included everything form sparklers to smoke bombs and fountains.

Palmer said some of the most sought-after items she noticed were artillery shells.

But safety is the key. Crazy Bill’s on U.S. Highway 80 makes a nine-step safety guide available to customers.

If you’re nice enough, Turner and Knight will give you a personal lesson on how to properly light fireworks.

But that will have to wait until June. Both stores shut down this weekend and are awaiting the mid-summer rush.

This is Turner’s first season selling fireworks, and she has noticed one trend.

“For men, it’s the boom, for women, it’s the color,” she said. “They like the boom and pop, and we like to go ‘Ooh’ and ‘Ahh.’”