John Glisson pushed a shopping cart on Saturday, perusing the aisles of Save-U-More Fireworks. What was he looking for?
“Anything that goes boom,” Glisson said, laughing.
Every year before the Fourth of July Glisson shops at Save-U-More at 737 Kansas Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.
Bob Eickhoff, 69, owns the store. He lives in Kansas City, Kan., and has been in the business more than 60 years.
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“We love it. We’re pyro nuts,” Eickhoff said. “I started out when I was a little bitty kid. My dad had stands way back. We started at 12th and Osage in a stand.”
Normally, Eickhoff’s storefront is home to BBQ Bonanza, where he sells barbeque grills, spices and rubs. But for a week each year, from June 29 until the Fourth of July, Eickhoff moves aside the barbecue paraphernalia to sell fireworks.
His family helps him run the store, which has everything: firecrackers, party poppers, snaps, spinners, jumping jacks, water dynamite, black snakes, pooping pigs, planes, fountains, parachutes, sparklers, Roman candles. Even new things like a chicken.
“Come down and buy one and tell me what it does,” Eickhoff said in a recent Facebook live video shared with customers.
Eickhoff hopes the shelves are bare by Independence day.
Business was steady on Saturday as couples and families walked the aisles. Savannah Miller and her mother, Mary Agee, shopped for a Fourth of July block party. They’ve been coming to Save-U-More for more than 20 years.
“I like how everybody is pretty friendly here. Since we buy so much there, they help us load our car,” Miller said. “It’s a family-friendly business.”
Miller loves artillery shell fireworks, which produce colorful bursts when lit.
Eickhoff travels to warehouses out of town, three or four, to collect his supply. He goes as far as Joplin in the Ozarks and buys from several warehouses to get a good assortment.
“There’s more options now and they’re safer than they used to be,” Eickhoff said. “We used to sell cherry bombs, M80s, torpedoes, bottle rockets. We don’t sell bottle rockets.”
As a kid, Eickhoff would do all kinds of things he wasn’t supposed to do. He would light M80s in all kinds of containers to get a bigger noise. He filled an Alka Seltzer bottle with gunpowder, ran a wick through it, taped it off and lit it.
“It’s a wonder I survived,” he said.
In Kansas City, Kan., you can shoot fireworks from July 1 through Independence Day. In Kansas City, Mo., and many surrounding cities, it’s illegal to shoot fireworks, but customers come from everywhere to stock up at Save-U-More.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, consumers bought $825 million in fireworks last year. That’s more than 9 percent higher than in 2015, and it doesn’t include the $345 million spent on display fireworks.
The business has nearly tripled since 1998, when consumers bought $284 million in fireworks. Most are made in China.
Work at Save-U-More begins a month or two before the Fourth of July, when Eickhoff cleans out his barbecue store. Eickhoff estimates each customer or family spends about $75.
Sales grow every year but can dip when the economy’s bad.
But, “It seems like the economy’s getting better now,” he said.
On a budget? The small stuff, snakes, sparklers and fountains, might be for you. Save-U-More also offers hand-picked firework assortments for half the retail price.
If you have more to spend, try FireFly, a wireless firework firing system that uses Bluetooth to connect up to 15 fireworks. A coordinating app allows users to sync the fireworks with music using their smartphones or tablets and design a show. It costs $180 at Save-U-More.