First wave of sales starts for fireworks stores

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Peter Libby stocks the shelves with fireworks Thursday to get ready for the Friday opening of Havoc Fireworks in Paris.

PARIS — Catherine Richards' new store wasn't even open yet when customers started clamoring to buy.

How some local towns and cities handle fireworks:

Auburn: Sale and use prohibited.

Farmington: Sale and use allowed.

Lewiston: Sale and use are generally prohibited, though use is allowed in the city's firearms discharge zone (rural areas) on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and July 4.

Norway: Sale and use allowed.

Rumford: Residents will vote June 12 on a proposal to allow the use of fireworks and the regulated sale of fireworks. Under the proposal, the seller would pay a fee to the town to help offset any Fire Department cost. The fire chief has recommended that fee be $5,000, but that will be established later if voters pass the proposal. 

They wanted fireworks, and they just couldn't wait.

"I got my sign put up yesterday and ever since then, the phone's been ringing off the hook," Richards said Thursday.

Havoc Fireworks opens Friday on Route 26 in Paris, one of five stores licensed in Maine. It joins Patriot Fireworks, which opened in Monmouth about two weeks ago, as well as stores that recently opened or are slated to open in Edgecomb, Manchester and Winslow.

Another handful of stores have applied for state licenses and are close to finalizing the approval process, including two in Scarborough and one each in Newport, Old Town and Wiscasset, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Less than six months after they became legal in Maine, fireworks are coming to town.

"I've been saying we're going to have about 11 (stores) by July Fourth," said Richard Taylor, senior research and planning analyst with the State Fire Marshal's Office. 

State lawmakers last year legalized the sale and use of fireworks in Maine. The new law went into effect Jan. 1, but no businesses immediately applied for a license to sell. 

That's changed in recent months.

Jay Blais and his business partner, Tim Bolduc, are part of the first wave. They opened Patriot Fireworks in a vacant building on Route 202 in Monmouth. The store offers 1,200 square feet of retail space, and the pair has stocked it with firecrackers and other fireworks. 

In business together since high school, the men own a flooring company in Sabattus. When the state law passed, they considered it time for a new venture.

"Someone had to do it," Blais said. "It seemed like a good idea. If we didn't do it, someone else would."

To meet licensing requirements, the men outfitted the building with a sprinkler system, a fire alarm that rings to the fire department and a burglar alarm that rings to the police department. They also painted with fireproof paint.

"The fire marshal was involved quite a bit and he was really helpful. He walked us through it and we helped each other. The state was actually really helpful and not hard to deal with. And the town, the town was awesome," Blais said.  

Open less than two weeks, Patriot Fireworks has seen steady traffic. Some customers want fireworks to shoot off now. Some want to stock up for the Fourth of July. Others just want to check out the place.

"A lot of people buy a little bit, they like it and they buy more," Blais said.

Richards will find out this weekend how business will be for Havoc Fireworks, but she's already gotten an inkling. People wanted to shop before her doors were open and her shelves were fully stocked.

"I'm pretty optimistic at this point," she said.

A tax accountant, Richards has no experience with retail sales or fireworks, but her fiance Peter Libby does. He'd worked in fireworks stores in New Hampshire. He will operate the Paris store with her.

The store, which officially opens Friday, will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with extended hours for holidays. Richards expects the business will be seasonal, but she may open a couple of days a week during the winter if business is good enough. 

Blais, too, is considering making Patriot Fireworks seasonal. For now, it's also open seven days a week. 

Neither business has employees.

Although no one knows how many fireworks stores will ultimately open in Maine, New Hampshire has around 30 stores, according to Taylor at the fire marshal's office. He speculates another 10 will open in Maine after this year.

While state law now allows fireworks, towns and cities can set their own rules or ban the explosives outright. Many large cities, including Auburn, Portland and Bangor, have banned their use and sale. Lewiston has banned the sale of fireworks but allows their use in limited areas on certain days of the year.

The Maine Fire Marshal's Office maintains a list of municipalities that restrict or prohibit fireworks. That list can be found at http://tinyurl.com/82vgrq8, under "Municipal Restrictions and Prohibitions on Consumer Fireworks."

Towns and cities are required to notify the office of any fireworks ordinance within 60 days, but some towns have not done so and others have created their ordinance within the last 60 days, so the list is not complete.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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Comments

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Beef up the staffs at the

Beef up the staffs at the local emergency rooms. The fun's about to start.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

They are dangerous but....

I can not tell a lie. Although fireworks are dangerous, they can also be an endless form of entertainment. Something I take advantage of whenever I can. Summer to me is a lawn chair, an ice cold beer, and some idiot trying to light the wrong end of a /"Roman Candle". I'll tell you, you can't get that in any theater. I realize fireworks are banned in L/A, but as long as they still sell booze, fireworks will never go away. I never get enough of people who couldn't find the ground if they fell over, but they can find that little fuse at the end of a firecracker. Welcome to Summer in L/A....

Jason Theriault's picture

The fire marshal's list sucks

Lewiston/ Auburn's laws are over 60 days, arent they?

Glenn Aho's picture

Can't wait to check out Havoc

I now I'll be checking out Havoc Fireworks when they open.

I do wonder how much they will be able to carry with it being such a small building.

Hopefully they will be able to expand

Dean Banks's picture

Town Bans

Isn't it wonderful how the state finally comes to it's senses and end the prohibition of fireworks only to have power hungry town leaders jump up an enact their own prohibitions.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Not so wonderful.

Town leaders are not power hungry. They have banned fireworks because they are dangerous. Our fire chief knows in a town with housing and trees so close together the use of fireworks can only spell disaster. Fireworks are going to get into the hands of a bunch of yahoos who care nothing about anything except their own thrills. The laws banning the use of fireworks protects people and property from those who refuse to be considerate of others.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

FYI, Ms. Moore, the one

FYI, Ms. Moore, the one agreeing with you happens to be the Pirate. Hope that doesn't make you too nervous or cause you to reconsider your position.

Glenn Aho's picture

By that logic Cars,

By that logic Cars, Chainsaws, Log Splitters, Outdoor Fire Pits, Gas Grills, Snowmobiles, Etc. would never have been allowed.

As has been said before, you can not legislate stupidity and just because something is banned does not mean that it will stop people from using the banned item. Fireworks were banned for over 40 years but yet they were still used.

Just as an aside: If you look at the current statistics you will see that use of consumer fireworks has steadily increased over the last few years but the injury rates have decreased exponentially. The reason for this increased safeguards in manufacturing, quality control and new federal laws which mandate how fireworks are to be produced. That's not to say that people who do stupid things won't get hurt but people hurt themselves on everyday items (See Above) as well while doing something stupid and we don't ban those.

I know it's cliche but it rings true; you can't legislate stupidity.

Jeff Johnson's picture

legislating stupidity...

I look forward to the statistics...

Number of fires started by fireworks, Vs. the number of fires started by discarded cigarettes.

Number of injuries by fireworks, Vs. the number of injuries deep-frying turkeys.

Number of assaults caused by firework-related incidents, Vs. the number of assaults started by raking/blowing your leaves onto the neighbor's yard.

And Glenn... they have started legislating stupidity. Here's two examples: Seatbelts, and smoking in the car with children.

Glenn Aho's picture

Please pardon the typo

Please pardon the typo

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