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Business booms ...Fireworks generate year-round income

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by Melissa Wilson SBJ Staff Although fireworks are only sold for a few weeks in the Springfield area, many area vendors also sell bottle rockets, Roman candles and sparklers, to name a few, in other locations in the United States year-round. "In the south, especially in Louisiana, the Christmas and New Year season is a bigger fireworks season than the Fourth of July is," said FOA Blockbuster Fireworks owner Mike Ingram. FOA Blockbuster, which has a warehouse and business offices at 6597 Independence Drive, imports fireworks from China and sells them to wholesalers and retailers, as well as operating six stands in Springfield and one in Branson West. Ingram has been in the fireworks business since he was 15. "I had my own stand in Branson starting when I was just a kid. I ordered a bunch of fireworks through the mail and a big Campbell 66 truck pulled up to my house with all of them one afternoon," Ingram said. Ingram's parents reluctantly allowed him to build a small fireworks stand, and a career was born. Ingram said the start-up costs for his first stand were virtually nothing because he built the stand himself and sold the fireworks on consignment from the wholesaler. "I loved fireworks, like every kid does, and thought it was just as much fun to sell them. I made a little money and decided to stay with it," Ingram said. Ingram said what he likes best about the fireworks business now is seeing the excitement on children's faces when they're at the stands with their parents buying for the big night. FOA Blockbuster hires stand managers as independent contractors, then the managers hire the rest of the staff for the stands. Mark Wright, who teaches at Greenwood, has managed the South Campbell Blockbuster Fireworks for six years. "It's a chance for us to do something as a family in the summer. Our kids help out, and we hire a lot of students from Greenwood," Wright said. Wright said the Blockbuster Fireworks stands are open anywhere from 10 days to two weeks and close at midnight on the fourth. "It's a hectic two weeks, but we have fun," Wright said. J. J. Cybulski, who also owns a lawn care business, has worked at Hale's Fireworks on South Campbell for five years. "I started out just helping set up and tear down the tents, and I got more and more involved every year," Cybulski said. "This is the first year I'm running two tents." Cybulski said the only part of working in the fireworks business he doesn't look forward to each Fourth of July is sleeping in the tent at night. "Last year I had a couple of people come into the tent in the middle of the night. This year, I've only slept here one night, and had some kids come in ... they skedaddled out when they realized there was someone sleeping in here, though," Cybulski said. Hale's Fireworks is based out of Buffalo, and is the fifth-largest fireworks wholesaler in the country, according to Bill Hale, who helps his brother, owner Bob Hale, run the family business in the summers. "We have a warehouse in Buffalo and 12 tents in the area. My sister-in-law started the business as a side money-making venture for her kids, and we now wholesale to 20 states," Hale said. Hale said his family employs several area coaches and teachers to work the tents each summer, and that he has made lasting friendships with employees and customers who shop Hale's year after year. Cybulski said Hale's tents are open in the area for about 20 days each summer and stay open until the fifth of July to provide exchanges or refunds for any customer who might be dissatisfied with the fireworks they purchased. "We guarantee our fireworks," he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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