Economy

Darren McKinley asks a customer if they’ll being paying cash or credit at the Phantom Fireworks cash register. The customer pulls out neatly folded twenties as workers pack their bags on the Friday morning before the Fourth of July holiday.

It’s 8:30 a.m., and three customers have entered the store so far. It’s expected to get busy later in the day.

As many spend time with family and friends this holiday weekend, there’s one group that’s especially excited about this time of year: fireworks retailers. This busy season accounts for most of their sales for the entire year.

“About 75 to 80 percent of revenue comes between May and early July,” McKinley says of Phantom in Clarksville, Indiana. The store’s general manager has worked in fireworks retail for 20 years.

Next door to Phantom is Pyro City Fireworks in Clarksville. Stephen George | wfpl.org

Next door to Phantom is Pyro City Fireworks in Clarksville.

Those sales at Phantom mostly come from the Louisville metro area, where a local ordinance prohibits fireworks that project into the air or explode.

There are other times of the year that his store may get busy. For example, during Diwali, the store sees a spike in sales from the area’s Hindu population.

But the revenue during that time doesn’t compare to this season. McKinley ramps up to 40 workers around the Fourth of July just to keep up with sales. The rest of the year, the staff is made up of him and two assistant managers.

“We had one individual come in and spend $5,000,” says Larissa Neville, head cashier at Phantom. She’s a nursing student at Indiana University Southeast. She’s been working here for the past three years during the busy season and was just promoted to head cashier.

“The fiery frog is really popular,” she says. “We’re always re-stocking the fiery frog.”

Popular among kids, for $5.99 you can buy the green, frog-shaped item with blue bulging eyes that sprouts sparkles from its mouth. Mortars, which are launched from a tube on the ground, are also popular in the store.

Nick Harden is a fan of mortars. The 11-year-old and his family pull up in a navy blue Chevy pickup truck. His dad and uncle paid for more than $200 worth of fireworks.

“We usually get a lot of stuff and have a pretty good time,” Harden says. He says he’s anxiously awaiting this weekend.

He’s not the only one excited about this time of year.