Andre Vandenbulcke, owner of AAH Fireworks in Oxford, stands in his store Friday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

For fireworks stores that sell to the average Joe, sales are expected to explode this summer.

AAH Fireworks in Oxford is already seeing a surge in sales from a year ago.

“I think sales are up slightly stronger than last year,” owner Andre Vandenbulcke said. “I think a reason for that is because all the town displays are canceled and there are more people that are going to be doing backyard displays for Fourth of July.”

AAH Fireworks opened back up in April after being closed the first three months of the year.

Down in Scarborough at Phantom Fireworks, doors just reopened on June 1 after being closed for 2 1/2 months. They also began curbside pickup on May 29. Walk-ins have been below average through the first week but manager Jenni Theriault isn’t too worried as the end of May and the beginning of June is when more customers come into the business.

It’s all about getting word out the store is open again.

“Usually the Fourth of July we are crazy; we are hammered. We see anywhere between 900 to 1,100 customers a day, (on) the first, second, third and fourth,” Theriault said. “I am 99% sure it will happen again and as people are learning that we are opened and it’s not just curbside service, more and more people are coming in. I predict this weekend it’s going to be kind of busy because it’s the first weekend that we are opened. I know business is definitely picking up. I know I have a lot of returning customers, which we greatly appreciate their business.”

This week, Phantom Fireworks has seen about 25-30 customers a day.

For Vandenbulcke and his business, he has seen more new costumers the past few months as people prepare for their upcoming summer backyard events.

“We have seen a lot of new customers that haven’t shot (fireworks) in the past that are shooting them this year,” Vandenbulcke said. “That’s the only reason why they are in here because they are going to make their Fourth of July special this year.”

Vandenbulcke has also seen some faces that he hasn’t seen in a few years. He had a customer who hasn’t shopped for personal firework displays in four years.

While Vandenbulcke is happy to see sales are up, he’s also acting as an instructor to his new customers who may not have fired fireworks of in the past.

“At the same time, we are selling and people wanting to have their own displays, we are making sure safety is (first),” Vandenbulcke said. “We are making sure they understand how to use the fireworks because we don’t want to see sales being stronger and see an influx of injuries. We are definitely spending time educating our customers.”

Now that Memorial Day has passed, local law enforcement is monitoring complaints, though there hasn’t been any more reported compared to any other year.

“In Auburn, we have not seen an increase other (than) the usual increase due to warmer weather that we see every year around this time,” Auburn Deputy Chief of Police Tim Cougle said. “We do not plan any additional enforcement due to events being canceled, however, we will continue to enforce our city ordinance regarding fireworks as we have done since it was enacted.”

Cougle said officers will cite violators if needed.

According to the Auburn Municipal ordinance, any person who uses consumer fireworks or possesses consumer fireworks with the intent to use in the city of Auburn shall be punished by a fine of up to $400. Similarly, any person who sells (or possesses consumer fireworks with the intent to sell) shall be punished by a fine of at least $500. Any fireworks in violation of this ordinance will be seized.

Across the river in Lewiston, Lt. David St. Pierre said he wasn’t aware of an uptick of fireworks complaints.

At the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s office, they are also not expecting anything out of the ordinary but will investigate any complaints they do get.

“I don’t know if that will be a priority in people’s minds to have fireworks displays at their residences, but there’s not any coordinated effort on our part to gear up with the expectation that there will be more than the normal amount of fireworks displays, issues or complaints we would receive any other given year,” Sheriff Eric Samson said. “As a matter of fact, as fireworks have been legalized and towns have adopted more rules and ordinances, I think that people have a better understanding of what they are allowed to do and not.”

Samson also said the number of fireworks complaints have declined the past few years.

On the other end of the spectrum, sales have been down for Central Maine Pyrotechnics out of Hallowell, who deals with municipalities and private functions for commercial fireworks displays.

President Steven Marson said the company has lost $700,000 in business with displays being canceled. He could lose another $650,000 on events that have already postponed displays to later in the year if they decide to cancel all together.

Marson considers July 4th a 10-day period in which he’s normally booked.

“What I call a 10-day window, that usually happens when Boothbay Harbor does Windjammer Days the last Wednesday in June, to July 5. We had 120 shows under contract,” Marson said. “We had 55 shows scheduled on July 4 (alone).”

He had shows planned in five of the six New England states.

Now because of the pandemic, Central Maine Pyrotechnics will only do 20 shows around the Fourth of July holiday. Marson said he’s doing 10 private shows and 10 municipalities in Northern Maine that will have their normal Fourth of July celebrations.

Marson has had more inquiries from people who want to have private shows.

“We are (doing private shows this) year on the Fourth of July,” Marson said. “We don’t do (usually do) private shows because we are so booked on municipalities and civic organizations that have events; we don’t have time to do private displays. I don’t have enough manpower. I have 55 crews and like I said, we can do that many shows in a day.”

Marson is not sure how Central Maine Pyrotechnics will recoup most of the lost income, but he will look to his consumer business, Pyro City Maine Fireworks. Marson owns stores in Edgecomb, Farmington, Manchester, Presque Isle and Winslow.

Marson believes the stores will see a 20% to 25% increase in revenue but won’t make up all the losses that Central Maine Pyrotechnics has seen so far.

“We just opened two weeks ago because we were forced to close like everybody else,” Marson said. “Since we opened two weeks ago, we have seen an increase in our sales. People who have been buying fireworks said they are buying them now for their kids’ high school graduation events that they are doing in their own yards. They said ‘Hey, we will be back for the Fourth of July because there aren’t going to be any (fireworks) anywhere, so we are going have to fireworks in our own yard.'”


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