2020 a banner year for fireworks stands

Chiquiti Fireworks, Marlin George Fireworks and Hill Family Fireworks all reported sales increases

With the current pandemic having doused the fuses for all Fourth of July firework displays in Kitsap County this year, many folks were left wondering how to celebrate Independence Day.

Without organized shows to provide the usual vibrant displays of light, many decided to forge ahead and provide their own fireworks extravaganza. Local tribal stands, such as Chiquiti Fireworks, Marlin George Fireworks, and Hill Family Fireworks in Suquamish all saw an uptick of sales this year with the lack of organized fireworks displays.

“Definitely up,” Owner Wa-La-Chud Chiquiti said of fireworks sales this year. “People are coming out early just to buy stuff to play with and then returning to buy more stuff for the Fourth of July. The whole neighborhood will get together and just stockpile to have their own little neighborhood shows.”

Tribal entities have different firework regulations compared to non-tribal stands as they are authorized to sell their own kind of fireworks as long as they are lit on tribal property.

“This is all tribal fireworks, anything you buy off the reservation doesn’t have as much powder,” Chiquiti said. “We get the top brands, you have to pay more for it but it’s what the customers like.”

Chiquiti also said the stand had been selling some new 6-inch canister shells that flew off the shelves and noted that anything neon or high-definition were also top-sellers for 2020. Contrastingly, knowing that more people would be checking out the fireworks stands due to the cancelation of organized displays, his stand also offered a display of small, novelty fireworks for those who weren’t as accustomed to the big boomers.

“A lot of our customers come from California where everything’s banned so they haven’t seen much of this stuff to begin with,” Chiquiti said. “We basically have to explain what everything does. Those kinds of people who haven’t been able to see these or light these their entire life; they get here and they want to try them.”

Another added feature this year for Chiquiti Fireworks was the option of “Pyro Pickup,” where consumers concerned with too much in-person contact could order and pay online before picking up their fireworks at the stand.

“We’re actually the only one in the state doing it,” Chiquiti said regarding the Pyro Pickup option. “People can order online and come here, we have it boxed up and ready for them to go. It’s really simple and easy, it’s basically like shopping on Amazon.”

“The whole COVID-19 (pandemic) kind of had my mind going crazy trying to figure out what to do next and (we) came up with that. I was trying to figure out how to keep people coming for fireworks because people might not be able or wanting to get out.”

As more and more people lit off their own fireworks this year, Chiquiti offered up the stand’s back parking lot for consumers to send up their explosives — as long as they are purchased onsite and under staff supervision.

“Our sign says ‘if you buy them here, you can light them here.’ We used to have a huge place down by the (Suquamish) waterfront where we used to put on the shows for everybody.”

Over at Marlin George Fireworks, co-owner Serene Williams stated that their fireworks stand also saw quite the increase in fireworks sales this year, due in large part to consumers who typically wouldn’t purchase fireworks flocking to the stands after the cancelation of all organized displays in Kitsap County.

“A lot of people came that have not done fireworks in years,” she said. “Our staff teaches fireworks safety and how to properly light them and dispose of them.”

Williams said they did not offer a pick-up option because they were already so busy and such a service would have created more demand. The biggest sellers at Marlin George Fireworks this year were mortars and large display cakes.

“We were so busy, that on the 3rd (of July) my sister had to post on social media asking for anyone who wanted to sell fireworks to come up and clock in. We hired over 40 employees and it was not enough for the demand of sales. At one point we had all staff helping 2-3 customers at a time. I’ve never seen it so busy.”

Unlike Chiquiti Fireworks, Williams said their stand did not let people come and light off fireworks onsite unless they were conducting it themselves.

“We do not allow people to light fireworks at our stand, it is so irresponsible and dangerous,” Williams said. “We do fireworks at our property but we take all measures of safety and have been doing them our whole lives.”

Just down the road at Hill Family Fireworks, owner George Hill Jr. said his stand saw more than a 50 percent increase in firework sales.

“We got pretty good community support around here,” Hill Jr. said.

COVID-19 regulations such as wearing a mask and social distancing were also in place at their place of business, according to Hill Jr. As for the 4th of July itself, the owner said “it was a blast” as the family held their own small display together and even welcomed others to come down and enjoy the festivities.

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