Just across from the North Carolina state line, the doors to Fort Mill’s fireworks stores stay open all night.
“You never have to be without a sparkler,” said Kim Pyles, manager of Red Rocket Fireworks, which stays open 24/7 in the weeks leading up to the Fourth.
With Independence Day coming up Friday, store managers are expecting a busy year thanks to a three-day holiday weekend.
“We’re excited about it falling on a Friday this year,” said Sharon Martin, manager of House of Fireworks.
Next door, Big Daddy’s Fireworks Castle manager Jeremy Jolly said he’s hoping the Friday date will help with sales. “It’s been slightly down the last couple of years,” Jolly said. “The Fourth was falling in the middle of the week.”
In a good year, Jolly said, the store can take in as much as $25,000 a day. That’s not surprising when there are customers willing to drop thousands.
In an annual ritual, fireworks fans from North Carolina head down Interstate 77 before every Fourth of July. They can’t buy or set off the festive explosives in North Carolina, which doesn’t allow any fireworks that leave the ground.
Products with names such as Pyro Pandemonium and Quick & Dead line the shelves at the fireworks superstore right off the highway. There’s even a new “Duck Dynasty” firework modeled after the popular show on A&E.
Customer Mike Davis said he’s spent four grand on fireworks before. This year, he’s keeping it to $1,000. For Davis and his son, Brandon, 9, celebrating Independence Day with a bang is a father-son affair. “It’s a guy thing,” Davis said.
And it’s not just any guy, Jolly said. “Middle-aged males,” he said. “That’s your regulars that buy them just for the heck of it.”
Mooresville neighbors Vinny Slavik and Bryan Bruce are two of those men. “We’re just big kids,” Slavik said after finishing a sword fight with Bruce’s daughter, Saiuri, 7, in Red Rocket.
Slavik and Bruce are planning a neighborhood get-together – and they say the festivities would not be complete without fireworks. “It’s an American thing,” Bruce said.
This year, the American Pyrotechnics Association expects the consumer fireworks industry to rake in around $675 million. That would be up $13 million from last year – and it doesn’t even include money spent on fireworks for commercial displays, a figure that amounted to $328 million last year.
The Fort Mill shoppers said they’d like to see North Carolina relax its fireworks restrictions. “They’re missing out on taxes,” said Davis, who lives in Greensboro but said he spends thousands on gas and fireworks in South Carolina.
Mike Wanner of Rowan County, who was buying $192 worth of fireworks, said enforcement of North Carolina’s fireworks restrictions is “nonexistent” during holidays.
Customers aren’t the only ones having fun with the approaching holiday. During the school year, Pyles works as a high school teacher in Rock Hill. She said most summer employees at Red Rocket are teachers.
“We really do have a good time,” she said. “We may not see each other all year, but then we come back and sell fireworks together.”
It turns out most of these managers don’t ever get around to shooting them off – they have work to do.
“On the Fourth, all four counters will be open,” said Martin of House of Fireworks. “It’ll be a zoo.”