For Grand Forks fireworks sellers, lots of sales in a short time make for wild time
The summer retail season for fireworks in North Dakota runs from June 27 until July 5, which means companies only have nine days to sell as many glowing, sparkling and exploding products as they can for the Fourth of July.
In Grand Forks, the two major dealers are Generous Jerry’s and Memory Fireworks, which are both located off U.S. Highway 2 near the Grand Forks International Airport, although Generous Jerry’s also has a location on 22nd Avenue South.
Braun Knutson, who started Memory Fireworks nine years ago, has been busy moving between the company’s 35 locations all over the state to make sure they are stocked for the nine-day retail season.
“That’s what the Fourth is all about, go go go, for we are only open for nine days and everything has to work out,” he wrote in a 3 a.m. email after pulling a load of fireworks to Memory’s Minot locations. “It’s a lot like farming. You put so much into it and hope Mother Nature is working with you. You have to have a lot of things go right in a short period of time.”
Brady Edwards, one of the managers of Generous Jerry’s in Grand Forks, said employees are working around the clock during the retail season to make the most of the opportunity.
“We’re open 24 hours a day for the retail season just because it’s so short,” he said, adding that some workers can work up to 16-hour shifts depending on what level employee they are.
Knutson emphasized the importance of customer service during the retail season because competition between the two companies is so high during the retail season.
“I think the biggest thing is just customer service, treating your customers right since they have other options out there,” he said.
Despite the competition, Edwards said he doesn’t see a lot of customer overlap between the two companies. He said most of General Jerry’s customers are pretty loyal from year to year.
“One guy (who came in) said he had come 37 years ago when we were just a tent at this location,” Edwards said.
Although both companies are also licensed to sell fireworks at wholesale to other dealers outside of the retail season, as well as to out-of-state buyers during other parts of the year, the nine-day summer season is when they do the most business. Knutson said the retail season is responsible for 80 percent of his sales.
Knutson said most people wait until heading out of town for the weekend of July 4 to buy fireworks, so he expects July 3 and the actual July 4 holiday (Friday) to be the two busiest days of the season.
Both retailers declined to talk about sales figures, and state tax officials do not track sales on fireworks.
Ready for the rush
Although the retail stores are only open for nine days during the summer and from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 during the winter, both Generous Jerry’s and Memory Fireworks are very busy during the rest of the year.
In the spring, Generous Jerry’s begins importing products from China and preparing to ship them to the company’s 17 different locations in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Knutson said he travels to China every September or October to check out and buy the latest products for Memory Fireworks to sell during the upcoming year.
Both companies also began selling fireworks during the winter in 2013 when North Dakota opened up the retail season for New Year’s.
Knutson said it is a good time of year for fireworks because it is safer to fire them off when there is snow on the ground to prevent things from catching on fire.
Jane Breyer, the general manager of Generous Jerry’s for over 30 years, said the company also decided to sell fireworks during the winter season despite the cold weather and plans on doing so again this year.
Fireworks for sale
Fireworks will be available for purchase through July 5, although laws prevent putting on a display of fireworks within Grand Forks city limits without a permit.
Generous Jerry’s is open 24 hours per day through the end of season, while Memory Fireworks is open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., or until the last customer is served. On July 5, they close at 2 p.m.