COLUMBIA — Christmas garland drapes from the wooden beams above old household appliances and boxes with handwritten inscriptions listing the contents. Amid the bicycles, seasonal decorations and childhood memorabilia lies a fairly large selection of fireworks in a barn behind the Gardner family’s home.
Years ago, John Gardner, a dentist, got a fireworks license because his family bought so many fireworks. But it was ultimately his daughter’s idea to start selling them, Gardner said. Christina Gardner said she decided to get a permit and start selling fireworks from the family’s home after neighbors, friends and relatives began asking to buy from the stock of fireworks the family had left over from their annual Fourth of July celebration.
The family put up small signs advertising discounted fireworks in the area around their home on Old Field Road. Christina said they mostly sell large fireworks at the stand because that’s what the family likes, though they do offer some smaller options, too.
“It’s really Christina’s idea,” John said. “She set up the prices and hours.”
She opened Gardner Discount Fireworks on Saturday and will keep it open until the Fourth of July. She works the stand from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on the Fourth when she will close at 6 p.m., John said.
Christina, a pre-dental student at MU, plans to get her own license next year if all goes well, John said.
The Gardners have one of 28 licensed firework stands in Boone County, Kristi Carwile, senior office support assistant to the State Fire Marshal’s office, said. There are 1,440 licensed stands in Missouri, Carwile said.
The process to obtain a permit isn’t generally difficult, but it can take a while, she said. In order to get the permit to sell fireworks, an applicant must fill out an application, pay a $50 application fee and send in copies of a certificate of no tax due and a retail sales license to the Fire Marshal’s office, Carwile said.
At the Gardners’ stand, the whole family helps with the operation, Christina said. But it was her father’s love for fireworks that got it started.
“When my dad was younger, he loved the Fourth, but he could only have one firecracker,” Christina said. “We started shooting a lot of fireworks after getting a wholesale license.”
The Gardners test all of their larger fireworks before putting them up for sale, Christina said. The testing is necessary because the wholesale sellers don’t give a description of the fireworks when the Gardners come to buy them, and the family wants to make sure the product is good for their customers.
“We always get stuck with the terrible ones because I don’t want to sell the bad ones,” Christina said.
She added that she doesn’t want to say the fireworks are good if it isn’t true.
Her favorite firework this year is the Boomtastic, a larger firework. The most popular fireworks among customers are the Black Cat Little Dynamite and the One Bad Mother, which has funny and appealing packaging.
The Gardners sell their fireworks at lower prices than other stands because they don’t have to pay for the land, a tent or employees, Christina said. They also offer deals for buying fireworks in bulk. Christina added that in traditional fireworks businesses, the product is marked up a lot.
“I really like fireworks, and I can tell people the ones that are good,” Christina said. “I get to hear them come back and say that I recommended good ones.”