SCARBOROUGH — By Father's Day – and just in time for the Fourth of July – the town will be home to the state's two newest fireworks stores.
Phantom Fireworks, based in Youngstown, Ohio, plans to open at the Gateway Shoppes near Cabela's on Payne Road this weekend. Atlas Fireworks, based in Jaffrey, N.H., will open at 374 U.S. Route 1, next to The Big 20 Bowling Center.
The stores must still pass inspection by the state fire marshal , and were still preparing their interiors this week. Crews were putting up drywall and painting at Phantom; workers at Atlas were building up the showroom.
"More than half our sales occur in the last two weeks of June and the first four days in July. ... We really prepare ourselves for an onslaught," said Art Einzig, corporate architect for Phantom Fireworks. He was on hand recently as workers busily prepared the 6,500-square-foot showroom for opening day.
Last year, Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill into law that legalized the sale and use of consumer fireworks in the state, but he gave municipalities the option to ban or regulate the products.
By choosing to allow the sale of fireworks, Scarborough became prime real estate for businesses seeking to capitalize on traffic coming into greater Portland on U.S. Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike. Out-of-state companies started investigating the town before its fireworks ordinance was even on the books.
Matt Shay, vice president of Atlas Fireworks – which orchestrates the giant display shows in Portland and Bar Harbor, among others – said the town can support competing stores.
"Scarborough is going to become the hub for consumer fireworks in Maine, as far as people coming into the state," he said. "I think the competition is great. We feel our location will service people on Route 1, while Phantom is hoping people coming off I-95 to Cabela's or going farther into the state will stop there."
The state is already home to five fireworks stores: Pyro City operates shops in Manchester, Edgecomb and Winslow, Patriot Fireworks is in Monmouth and Havoc Fireworks in South Paris.
Richard Taylor, senior research and planning analyst with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, said no companies have failed the permitting process. The marshal's office will check out Scarborough's two shops this weekend.
Taylor said he expects all the fireworks shops in the state will be up and running before the Fourth of July.
Peter Libby, manager of Havoc Fireworks in South Paris, said business has been steady since he opened on Memorial Day Weekend. Libby also said he's not worried about competition.
Small shops like his, with its 600-square-foot showroom, will serve different customers than the large shops along the highways, he said.
"People are just excited that it's finally legal," he said. "They're going to travel around and get the best deals they can. Those bigger shops, like Phantom and Atlas, are going to stay in the major cities like Scarborough, Augusta, Bangor, places like that, basically all the way up I-95."
After the Fourth of July, Phantom and Atlas both plan to shrink the number of employees at their stores. Business will decline, they said, especially after summer ends.
Phantom Fireworks may even reduce its hours, close for the winter, or stay open only on weekends, Einzig said. It will all depend on demand.
The state could see as many as 12 fireworks stores open by summer's end. Companies in Newport, Ellsworth, West Paris, Wiscassett and Old Town are all awaiting the fire marshal's approval.