WEST PARIS — Doug Nash slowly pushed his shopping cart, trying to take in every cracker, snapper, rocket and missile filling the aisles of AAH Fireworks.
"This is like clothes shopping for girls," Nash of Turner said as he pushed his already full cart through the shop at 52 Penley Ave. in West Paris. "I hate to leave and think, 'Oh, I should have got this.' Anything that shoots up high and explodes really high is for me."
The carriage held hundreds of firecrackers and a bunch of tubes with powder-filled rockets that promised to light up the sky. He planned to spend about $200 on the display, destined for the sky above a family camp on Worthley Pond in Peru.
"I hate to spend that much money for about one minute of fun," he said. "Once a year, I can see doing it." But the money was spread across several family members and the display itself would be spread out over 30 minutes or so.
And he wasn't alone.
Hours before Maine celebrated their second Independence Day holiday after the legalization of fireworks, business boomed.
"It's better than it was last year," AAH Fireworks owner Andre Vandenbulcke said.
He began 2012 with a January fire that consumed the old Penley Mill he used as a warehouse. Though none of his fireworks were inside, Vandenbulcke lost his trucks and other equipment.
His first Independence Day holiday went well, but customers unaccustomed to fireworks shops were learning about what they liked and what they want.
This year, the business has been stronger. People are getting to know what they want, slowly.
"What's big?" they ask. "And what's loud?"
Vandenbulcke tries to answer.
"It's always an education," he said. "I always tell people to ask questions." The package of each of his 380 items describe its explosion. To help further, he installed computer tablets with short videos of each product's explosion. More information was posted online at www.aahfireworks.com.
The fireworks are all part of Vandenbulcke's own brand.
The Salisbury, Mass., native began working with fireworks at 14, stocking and unloading trailers at Fireworks Over the Border Inc. in Seabrook, N.H. He graduated from Gould Academy in Bethel in 2000 and started managing Fireworks Over the Border Inc.
He traveled to China in 2006 and began importing and wholesaling his own AAH Fireworks.
He supplies 18 stores, including locations in Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Florida and Texas. West Paris serves as his home base.
On Wednesday, he watched as people bought products with names such Cracker Bombs, Hot Rods, As Good as Gold, Size Does Matter and The Committee.
Nancy Michaud of Norway pushed a cart carrying two Box O' Bombs.
"These are really the best," she said. "We got them last year. They're like the real fireworks you see at displays. These go way up."
Meanwhile, Nash wandered the aisles trying to decide how to best celebrate the holiday.
He wanted something big, something now and, if possible, something that ended with a crackle.
"I was always the kid that liked playing with fire," he said. "Once fireworks became legal in Maine, they had a hard time keeping me away."