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Working on the First Coast: Friday Fourth of July means big fireworks business in Jacksonville

Posted: July 2, 2014 - 10:05am
Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com  Jacques Alexander (from left) gets some help from his girlfriend's daughter, Victoria Thompson, and her friend Fatima Botonjic as they stock the tent at the intersection of Beach and Southside boulevards. Every Fourth of July means a run on sales for fireworks shops and tents along the First Coast.
Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com
Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com Jacques Alexander (from left) gets some help from his girlfriend's daughter, Victoria Thompson, and her friend Fatima Botonjic as they stock the tent at the intersection of Beach and Southside boulevards. Every Fourth of July means a run on sales for fireworks shops and tents along the First Coast.
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Photos by Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com  Fireworks tents were getting an increasing stream of customers last weekend and they are expecting a big rush Thursday and Friday. Zach Alexander (right) and his wife, Ashley, help customers at the stand at St. Johns Bluff Road and Atlantic Boulevard.  Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com
Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com
Photos by Bob.Mack@jacksonville.com Fireworks tents were getting an increasing stream of customers last weekend and they are expecting a big rush Thursday and Friday. Zach Alexander (right) and his wife, Ashley, help customers at the stand at St. Johns Bluff Road and Atlantic Boulevard.

Legalities of fireworks on the First Coast

-Technically, under Florida law, it’s illegal to use fireworks anywhere unless they’re being used for “agricultural purposes,” such as scaring away birds or snakes.

- The only fireworks being sold to the general public in most counties such as Duval and Nassau are those classified as “sparklers” or fireworks that do not fly or explode.

- In several counties, such as St. Johns County, individuals can buy exploding flying fireworks only after signing a waiver saying they’re needed for agricultural use; Duval County does not allow such a waiver.

Don’t want to buy fireworks?

There are plenty of free public fireworks displays on the First Coast and surrounding areas in the next few days. Check today’s Metro section for a calendar of events and free displays, or go to jacksonville.com/calendars.

First Coast area business news

Every Fourth of July means a run on sales for fireworks shops and tents that dot the First Coast. But when the holiday falls on a Friday, many of those retailers say it’s an extra boom to business.

“We definitely are under a lot more pressure,” said Angie Byrd, general manager of Phantom Fireworks in St. Johns County, one of the largest fireworks retailers in North Florida. “We’re expecting to be very busy.”

SEE ALSO: 4th of July events through Saturday across the First Coast 

The 5,000-square-foot Phantom showroom off Interstate 95 sells the rare exploding and flying fireworks, which are generally outlawed in most counties such as Duval. But Byrd said with Independence Day falling on Friday for the first time in six years, her workers are bracing for more business than on most Independence Days.

RELATED: Legalities of fireworks on the First Coast

Byrd said she has already added more staff to handle the sales that will go late into Thursday and Friday when she expects her store to be slammed. She normally has a staff of about 30 people when the holiday falls in the middle of the week. But when it lands on Friday, she expands that workforce to about 45 people.

AND: Tropical Storm Arthurs threatens East Coast July 4th plans

“The trend is we’re already up. We’re expecting to be busy all the way through the weekend,” Byrd said, though she declined to provide sales figures. “We’re really happy when it falls through a weekend so people have time to do their celebrations and not be concerned with going back to work the following day.

“Unanimously, Friday is our best Fourth of July,” Byrd said.

Even at smaller outlets, many retailers feel a better fireworks sales season is in store with July 4 falling on a Friday.

‘AN EXCELLENT DAY’

Tessie Byrd, who is not related to Angie Byrd, volunteers to run the fireworks sales tent at Beach and Hodges boulevards in Jacksonville as a fundraiser for the Church of the Pentecost, which has been selling Fourth of July favors as a fundraiser for about 15 years. Tessie Byrd said she senses a better year this year.

“Friday’s an excellent day for business,” Tessie Byrd said.

“It starts out the holiday weekend and usually has a little more excitement. It helps that it’s around pay day.”

The church also has another fireworks tent on Beach near Southside Boulevard and the two sites usually pull in about $5,000 for the church.

Tessie Byrd said with the holiday not being in the middle of the week, that figure could be exceeded this year.

“It’s busier on a Friday than it is on a Monday or Tuesday,” Tessie Byrd said.

For other fireworks retailers, though, they see this year the same as any other Fourth of July.

“I haven’t bought anything extra,” said George Harrington, who runs a fireworks sales tent at the Regency Square mall parking lot off Atlantic Boulevard. “If it’s big [sales], well then maybe we run out.

“But I treat it as any other Fourth of July,” Harrington said.

Tessie Byrd said the church fireworks sales tent won’t take the Friday holiday for granted and they’re prepared to maximize sales.

“Most people can take off on a Friday to have [an extended] weekend. A lot of people don’t get off on Tuesday’s or midweek,” Tessie Byrd said. “We usually set up extra volunteers to come out on a Friday to help us.”

On a Fourth of July that doesn’t fall near a weekend, Tessie Byrd said she normally has about 10 volunteers working the sales tent. This year, they’ll have about 20 volunteers in anticipation of the extra customers.

 

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

 
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