Business booms for fireworks stores

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HINSDALE, N.H. — With large July 4 celebrations canceled this year, fireworks displays are being left to individuals.

"It's sad, absolutely sad," said Jessica Mahoney, of North Haverhill, N.H. "You're erasing America's birthday as far as I'm concerned. You're not celebrating it."

Last week, Mahoney was purchasing fireworks at Phantom Fireworks in Hinsdale to put a show on for her children. It's a family tradition.

Mary Bebey, manager of Phantom Fireworks, has worked at the store for 17 or 18 years now.

"The fireworks business right now, it is booming, let me tell you," she said. "It's the best season since I've started working here."

She attributes the increase in sales to towns or groups canceling annual fireworks shows due to the coronavirus pandemic and people being "tired of being cooped up" for months.

Her store closed down earlier in the pandemic then reopened and offered only curbside for a while. Now, it is following guidelines and recommendations from the state.

Customers are asked to wear a mask upon entering the store and to come in with no more than three in a group. The store is only operating at half capacity for occupants and no one under the age of 21 can enter.

Lines on the floor are marked to help keep people 6 feet away from one another to abide with public health guidelines. Every other register is closed to space out the employees as well.

Bebey described customers as being "very pleasant."

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"They understand the social distancing," she said. "We have them lined up outside. We offer them water. They understand. They really do."

Starting Monday until July 4, the hours at Phantom Fireworks are expanded to be open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.

"It's nonstop here," said Bebey.

Also reporting an uptick is Area 51 Fireworks in West Chesterfield, N.H.

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"It's been crazy this year," said Chris Maskell, store manager. "We get customers coming in every day who want to put on shows for their kids because all the shows are canceled."

Maskell has worked at Area 51 for two years now.

"It's more hectic than I've ever seen it before," he said.

Although difficult, he said the store has been able to keep up with the demand.

Area 51 is running longer hours now, too. It is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and has social distancing measures in place.

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For the same reasons Bebey cited, Hinsdale Police Chief Charles Rataj said he would not be surprised if more people were setting off their own fireworks this year.

"This is my first Fourth of July here in Hinsdale and we do have more fireworks shops here than anywhere else I have worked," he said, having previously come from Newport, N.H.

Earlier in his career, he worked in Bellows Falls and Norwich in Vermont. All fireworks are illegal in the Green Mountain State except permitted and supervised public displays.

In New Hampshire, fireworks cannot be sold to or used by anyone younger than 21. Also required is approval of the owner of the property where the items will be set off.

Rataj advised against mixing alcohol consumption and fireworks. A town noise ordinance prevents loud sounds and thereby fireworks from being used after 10 p.m.

With rain falling during the interview, Rataj said he is thankful because the weather has been "extremely dry."

"So hopefully we won't be getting any fires from that," he said.

He encouraged those using fireworks to have a fire extinguisher available if weather conditions are dry.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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