Monica Rosenberg has two criteria for her Fourth of July fireworks: They must be grand enough to satisfy her lifelong fascination with the sparking essentials, but not so big that her husband will worry about setting fire to the woods behind their Conway home.
“I’m a pyromaniac,” she said Friday afternoon as she packed her cart at Phantom Fireworks near Myrtle Beach. “I love the lights. I love the noise. … I’ve always loved fireworks. Always. My thing.”
With public displays of fireworks canceled in many communities because of COVID-19 concerns, local fireworks stores are seeing an increase in their typical sales.
“We’re not used to having this kind of volume until at least [the end of June],” said Michelle Turner, a manager at Phantom Fireworks.
She said customers started coming in as soon as they reopened on May 8 after being closed because of COVID-19.
The boom in sales isn't confined to the Grand Strand. The American Pyrotechnics Association reports that consumer fireworks stores across the country are seeing record-breaking sales.
“The APA predicts an all-time high in backyard consumer fireworks sales and use as families prepare to celebrate Independence Day at home due to the pandemic and cancellation of large public celebrations,” said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the APA, in a news release.
The new coronavirus is certainly one reason Larry Weaver and his 6-year-old son Laron plan to enjoy fireworks at their Florence home this year.
“It’s not going away and it ain’t getting no better,” Larry Weaver said of the virus. “The numbers are increasing every day. Really and truly, it’s getting scarier.”
The father and son stopped by Phantom Fireworks Friday to add to the $100 collection that Laron had already accumulated at home. They like the idea of a low-key celebration.
“Just a little meat on the grill and fireworks at night,” Larry Weaver said. “Have a little fun.”
Al Wyche, a salesman at Mr. Fireworks in Myrtle Beach, said his store has also seen higher than normal traffic.
Although that store never did close down, Wyche said customers started buying the glitzy noisemakers for July 4 back in May.
“Usually it’s not till the middle of June that we see it increase, but it’s still increasing,” he said. “People like the loud boom and for a lot of people, they like the pretty colors like the professional shows give them.”
The biggest sellers in that store are multi-shot fireworks – “They do all the work for you,” he said – or the artillery kits – “You need to reload those.”
At Phantom Fireworks, Turner said the Grounds for Divorce option is one of the older and more popular assortments and ranges “from the sparkler to the grand finale.”
Turner suspects the uptick in sales is twofold.
“People are just happy to be out of the house,” she said. And like Wyche, Turner is seeing a lot of tourists, especially from North Carolina and Virginia, stopping in for fireworks on their way out of town because they can’t buy all types at home.
“They can only buy sparklers and fountains in most states,” she said, explaining that those are kinds that don’t leave the ground. “In South Carolina, we allow both ground and aerial and after they buy it here, I can’t control where they take it."
Count Troy and Ruth Morris in the out-of-town group. Before the North Carolina couple drove down to Phantom, Ruth Morris had researched various fireworks and made a list of 35 displays she liked. Her husband pushed a cart while she hauled boxes on a platform truck.
The holiday holds special significance in the Morris family. The husband and wife met while serving in the U.S. Navy and their son is enlisting in that branch as well. Troy Morris’s father retired from the Army and Ruth Morris’s dad retired from the Air Force.
“We’ve got military history forever,” Ruth Morris said. “It’s a big deal.”
Although some families have long fireworks traditions, industry experts expect many people will be blasting them for the first time this year. They are encouraging amateurs to closely read and follow the instructions on the package.
“Be careful, be safe and read the directions,” Wyche said. “Don’t deviate. And, if you get a crazy thought, don’t do it. Have fun, but not Wile E. Coyote.”