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And so the quest for fireworks was accomplished.

Total distance travelled: 720 miles. Mileage: 28.8 average in galens V6 accord and my lead foot with a steady cruising speed of 80 mph average. Adam and KJ Roo were the unlucky volunteers to accompany me on this quest.

Why so far? Well there's a story see...

We arrived at Phantom Fireworks just north of the PA border, about 130 miles from my house. I was rather shocked to see such a huge warehouse. Even more surprising were the number of people inside the retail storefront portion.  In the time it takes for me to eat a sandwhich, they sold about $15,000 worth of fireworks to other crazy people just like me. $2k of that was just the two people in front of me, and there were a dozen checkout lines each with people in line all the way to the back of the store. It was insane. There was a line to get into the store and a cop was letting people in as people would leave, performing crowd control so the building didn't completely pack full of people.

Even so, it was packed. Selections were initially thought to be fantastic. Then closer inspection started to reveal a lot of ho-hum brands. Hey, that mortar set is $99. Which is easily twice as expensive as it should be, except that they have this buy 1 get a second for 95 cents. I wasn't put off too much by the prices, but the days of coming home with a shopping bag full of fireworks for $20 just didn't seem possible with this pricing setup. We found some top brand stuff hidden in with all the crap, and put it into the shopping cart.

It is here that Adam noted his reservations as I started trying to find the best bottle rockets for my tastes. He pointed out that a lot of other stuff we want we might be able to get at another fireworks store. I agreed and it was decided that worst case scenario, we come back and buy more. We paid for what we already picked out, a rather conservative selection of very high end artillery shells, some roman candles that my book on fireworks buying said are so good that they're redefining what roman candles can do (Brothers brand), and some 8oz rockets that, also, had rave reviews. I choked back the concept of buying 6 of those missles for $29, despite the buy one get another for $1. I didn't really WANT a dozen of them. I wanted 6 for $15, but that's where they get you or so I found out...

We hopped into the car and started driving. My theory was that there in PA we'd find other firework stands competing with Phantom not far up the highway. I drove for about 20 miles, and didn't find anything. All the while Adam was on my SK searching the web for information on more fireworks retail locations. Between that and the Accord's nav system, we should be able to find anything. Unfortunately, the closest we could find was 200 miles north, not far from LAKE ERIE! It was 4pm and the place was open till 9. They claimed to be PA's largest fireworks warehouse and had a retail storefront, selling both Consumer fireworks (1.4g) and Display fireworks (1.3g). We discussed it and then decided to continue this QUEST and head there to see what they had.

200 miles later, we arrive. Like Phantom, the first thing they ask is if we're PA residents. Do we have out of state drivers licenses? Yes. "Then you can buy fireworks." was their response. Poor PA residents. Sure must suck to have great fireworks for sale right where you live, but not be able to buy any of them!

We wandered into the warehouse and the first thing we noticed was that it was quiet. We were alone. Aside from the 5 employees we spotted, we were it. I looked up at the prices and almost fell over. They were anywhere from 1/2 to 1/4 of what Phantom wanted. And oh look, Brothers brand here. Brothers brand there. Brothers brand everywhere, along with Shogun and Red Latern and a few others.

And then it hit me ... the prices. How could I _NOT_ get this pack of 6 parachute missles, they're only $1.89. How could I NOT get this pack of ground spinners, they're 87 cents! Better yet, how could I NOT get this 500 gram heavy edition Brothers brand 37 shot mortar finale setup for $59? Phantom wanted $159 for it. Course, you get two, but I DONT WANT TWO of the same damn thing and they won't allow substitutions.

THEN it got even better. The case prices. OMFG. 4 of those finale setups for just $112. I would have spent $320 at Phantom to get the same thing. The case discounts were so incredible that Adam and I had to look at each other and wonder if we should buy for next year, too. Fortunately it was quickly decided to keep things cheap, to remember where this place was and to just enjoy the road trip to it again in the future.

We stopped to talk to one of the employees, asking how long they'd been around. The answer was that they had been there since 1947. This was "just" their SMALL warehouse. When I asked how they compared to 'the company that shall not be named' (ie: Phantom), they explained a lot about how fireworks are purchased from overseas in vastly different qualitys. That any buyer can demand a case of something for $10 each, and the maker will happily build them it for $10 each. And put $10 of propellant into it, too, and make it suck. These guys were serious about quality, and also were forward enough to discuss the philosophy of making fireworks a higher quality here in the western civilization as a new standard, improving it from times in the past.

One entire trunkful of fireworks later (and I do mean trunkful, filled to the brim) Adam and I each paid our share with glee and then stared at what little we'd purchased at Phantom still in the trunk. We thought about seeing what their refund policy would be, since we'd be driving right by them on the way home. But, we did pick out some fairly premium stuff and so it probably wasn't worth the hassle. I'm not even sure if they take refunds. So we kept what we had and took what we got and then drove home.

Total transit time: 10:30am - 1:30 am = 15 hours.

Total: artillary shells 300+, hundreds of rockets and missles, and lots of things that shoot, zip, explode, crackle, fly, and go BOOM. We even got a mortar setup that sends 70 army dudes up into the air on parachutes. (Unfortunately we got TWO of them because that was purchased at Phantom *grumble*)

Total money spent: $123.19 x2 (adam and I split the cost)
Total needed to be spent at Phantom to get the same thing: Est. $1000 and we'd have had half the selection.

Sunday came and went. We were all pretty tired...

- Keman

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
kint
Jun. 26th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you've got a fun fourth just around the corner *g*
kody_wolf
Jun. 26th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
So, Where did you get your fireworks?
I've been buying from Phantom fireworks for about 10 years.
I guess you don't know about their buy one get one free offer? *shrug*
I spent about $300 and got about $400 in free fireworks at Phantom.

If you check out their website you can simply print out a coupon that reads buy one at regualar price and get the 2nd one for 99 cents, no limits, on everything! Also if you spend over $150 you get a free assortment and every $100 more you get more free stuff.

So, where is it that you got cheaper better quality fireworks?
Do they offer mail order?
kemanorel
Jun. 26th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
http://www.kellfire.com/oc_main_menu.html

The "coupon" isn't really a coupon, as it was (at least when I went two days ago) up on big signs with no coupon needed. This is like a 50% off "sale" that never actually ends and the prices are just doubled.

The "deal" isn't really a deal when you spend more than twice as much, especially on big stuff.

Lets say I purchased the 15,000 firecracker brick. Phantom wants $200. Yeah, you get a second one for 99 cents. Kellner's offers it for $50.

Phantom is sort of the opposite of bulk-buy options. They force you to buy it in bulk in the minimum quantity, and then make you pay more than you would buying it individually. That's backwards from how bulk discount should work.

The freebees hardly make up for any of this.
kody_wolf
Jun. 26th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
Kellfire's stuff is so cheap because you have to buy cases, I'm not interested in buying cases of roman candles, mortars or rockets, a few dozen is fine for me.

The stuff looks "cheap" in quality too. It looks like some mom & pop shop on the side of the road selling their own stuff. I don't plan on spending hundreds of dollars on fireworks that I've never seen before.

kj_roo
Jun. 26th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
They sold us quantity 1.
kody_wolf
Jun. 26th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
I assume that was 1 case, not 1 package or item eh? I guess that's okay if you want that many.
But are they really cheaper? You also had to drive a lot farther out of your way to get them.

What are your 4th of July plans? I'm still looking for a good location.
kj_roo
Jun. 26th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
No, one item. One single package. Out of a case. Everything had a unit price and a case price.

I'm going off with Kemen to ignite this pile of pyro that was purchased. :D
kody_wolf
Jun. 26th, 2006 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
hehe ok cool! just you 2?
kj_roo
Jun. 26th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
Nope. Not sure who all will show.
graysoul
Jun. 27th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
Can I stow away in the prep vehicle? I'll help clean up... :)
-GraySoul
kemanorel
Jun. 27th, 2006 03:27 pm (UTC)
That was one package. They sold cases and individually. It is 400 miles round trip from Phantom, definitely a lot further. But the price really makes it worth it. Their online catalog kinda sucks. If you really want to price out stuff, look at their printed catalog.

We were very specific about prices and quality. None of us have any particular loyalty to one place or the other, so trust me when I say Phantom isn't a BAD place to buy fireworks, but they're streamlined and profitable, and use the buy-1-get-one-free tactic to force the minimum quantity purchased to be twice as high. Even if the prices were the same, you still get forced to buy stuff by the pair.

As for a location, on that I can't help you. Where we're lighting stuff off isn't specifically legal, but it's in the middle of nowhere in MD on private property with a very sparsely populated area, and we hope what few neighbors there are enjoy it as opposed to calling the cops on us. We'll be setting stuff off all into the night, if you or anyone else adds to the display, it's gonna get way over the top.
kody_wolf
Jun. 27th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
Cool!
kody_wolf
Jun. 26th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: So, Where did you get your fireworks?
I priced out the some of the same exact fireworks I bought at Phantom at the Kellfire online store. He prices for the bulb rockets are more expensive per piece at Kellfires, and the Morning Glory sparklers at Kellfires come out to 6.5 cents each, at Phantom they are 6.2 cents each.

Looking at a few other similar items, not exact items, Kellfire's seem to be the same price or a little more expensive than Phantom's at their buy one get one free or 50% off all the time rate. Kellfire's don't offer that. But if you are comparing regualar prices to regular prices Kellfires is about half as much as Phantom's prices.

The only problem with Kellfire's is that their restrictions are stricter and their store is much farther away from me than Phantom's warehouse.

I'm curious now - who else are some good comparible firework companies "nearby"?
mrianti
Jun. 26th, 2006 07:05 pm (UTC)
where was the place near erie ? *scratches head trying to remember *

I know of ace fireworks just over the Ohio border
aldebron
Jun. 26th, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)
so, baring a catistrophic house fire - where will you be detonating this stuff?
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so, baring a catistrophic house fire - where will you be detonating this stuff? <and who is the poor hung over shmuck that gets to clean it up in the am?>
burrwolf
Jun. 26th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
Damn
You guys are Sooooooooo..Lucky to actually have this problem of whose cheeper!
Being a Cali boy I haven't SEEN Personal Fireworks in 17 years.

Miss those huge stores on the side of the road. "Black Cats only Xx Miles!"
gryph0n
Jun. 28th, 2006 08:48 am (UTC)
Mmm, sounds like you've got some good stuff! Wish I could be there for the fun! :D

The sale of consumer fireworks has always been an interesting topic to me, since the *sale* of the stuff isn't really illegal, but actually lighting and USE of most of it technically is. The interesting thing is that when it's around 4th of July, I have been told from the horse's mouth that most legal entities (police, fireman, etc) tend to pretty much look the other way unless you're being totally stupid with what you're doing. Yay for devout patriotism and the right to celebrate it in hazardous ways!

I've talked to a number of people in the Ohio Department of Commerence and the State Fire Marshall about all of this at numerous continuing education seminars I've had to attend to renew my licenses, and I still haven't been able to get a clear answer how the legal system actually views all this. There's a lot of that 'across state lines' stuff thrown in to make it quasi-legal-like, and a generous quantity of hand-waving thrown in. At least the restriction on sale of smaller product to general consumers reduces the risk of what can happen, but doesn't preclude stupid people from buying them and being, well, stupid. :D

I think I've managed to get most of the pyroness out of my own system after the +600 some shows I've worked over the years. It's actually nice to go watch someone ELSE fire a good show these days. :>

Have fun, get pictures, and be safe!!
hastka
Jun. 28th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC)
Kangaroos? Have you been holding out on me? :P
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )