Daniel Minter, 20, left Casey’s Fireworks Thursday with rockets that explode like flowers, Roman candles, ground spinners, poppers, snappers and snakes.
For years, the Minter family has come to the Rosewood Drive fireworks dealer to pick an assortment of pyrotechnics for both the Fourth of July and New Year’s.
“We gather together with the family with several other grandchildren and do this as a family tradition,” said Myrt Minter of Columbia, Daniel’s grandmother. “We’ve been around here a long time, since the 1970s, and they’ve always been here.”
Casey’s Fireworks, which was founded in Columbia in 1949, prides itself as the only year-round fireworks store in the city, said John Casey, who represents the third generation of the Casey family to own the store.
“People have been coming here for four generations. They come to visit their grandmothers, their aunties, their old neighbors, their college friends, and they want to go to the grandmother that lives in South Carolina, because they can shoot fireworks in South Carolina.”
Casey’s grandfather, Jim Casey, started the business in 1949 on Rosewood Drive as an open-air market, selling mostly snacks and fresh vegetables to soldiers returning home from World War II, Casey said. “At that time it was the center of this area. There wasn’t a grocery store or anything like that on the Rosewood side of town.”
The store also sold fireworks, with firecrackers, sparklers, cherry bombs and M-80s comprising that inventory, according to the store’s website.
But a local sheriff objected to Casey selling fireworks, his grandson said, and wanted to ban their sale. “That would have caused him to lose a major part of his income,” Casey said.
The issue landed in the state Supreme Court, which was asked to keep the sale of fireworks legal in South Carolina for all licensed merchants. The court ruled in Casey’s favor.
Today, few states offer full consumer access to fireworks, which is why people from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio and elsewhere drive to South Carolina to buy fireworks, Casey said.
Not surprisingly, New Year’s and the Fourth of July are the busiest times for Casey’s. As those holidays approach, John Casey’s oldest son, Forest, returns to the Palmetto State from Los Angeles to help out at the store, along with his brother. They stock up inventory, wait on customers and do whatever else needs to be done.
“It’s sort of a family affair,” Forest Casey said. “It’s a fourth-generation business and we’re just trying to keep it alive.”
Fireworks are popular at other times during the year, too. In fact, people these days use fireworks to celebrate almost any kind of occasion, John Casey noted.
One of the most popular nontraditional uses of fireworks is “gender reveals,” he said. Some couples awaiting the birth of a child choose to announce his or her gender with a fireworks show that ends with a display of pink or blue, Casey said.
“We’ve had a huge amount of response from people to do the gender reveal,” Casey said.
Fireworks for those events can include 16 big shots, 16 small shots, or 80 shots in either pink or blue, Casey said, depending on how celebratory the mood is. “Whatever they feel their need to celebrate, we’ve got a size that will fit all,” Casey said.
Weddings, too, often command big fireworks celebrations, he said. The pyrotechnics for those occasions are arranged to last long enough for the entire wedding party to participate in simultaneously setting off a firework, or long enough for the wedding party to enter or exit a venue, Casey explained.
On Thursday, amid the building Fourth of July fireworks rush, 200 sparklers were purchased for a July 9 wedding.
Increasingly, birthdays are another reason to light up the night sky. Recently, someone bought 96 missiles to celebrate a grandmother’s 96th birthday, Casey said.
“Customers come with more interesting ideas than I have ever thought about,” Casey said.
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398