Neighbors open fireworks tent

Friday, July 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:57 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

It’s not exactly a family business — but it’s a neighborly one.

Helmi Sheely explained that two families — hers and her friend’s, Nancy Palmer — run Family Fireworks together. The women also work together at Palmer’s contracting company, Coastal Electric, and they live next door to each other.

The business’s name, Family Fireworks, reflects the desire to make the tent more family-friendly than the rest, Sheely said. Tables full of fireworks line the edges, with periodic signs describing each product’s punch. “Awesome!” reads one large black-marker sign stuck on the artillery shell table. Artillery shells are smaller, consumer versions of the big fireworks seen at public displays. The guys usually swarm around those, Sheely said. She estimated they sell about 170 different types of fireworks.

Sometimes the younger kids will come in with wish lists. “It’s like Christmas,” Palmer said.

Family Fireworks holds one of nine new retail permits in Boone County issued by the state fire marshal’s office this year. There were 23 fireworks permits issued in the county, most of which are clustered around Columbia, according to the state office. That’s about the same number as last year.

The fire marshal’s office late this week was still processing permits to sell fireworks, at a rate of about five a day, said Michelle Malone, an executive in that division. Missouri law used to permit the fire marshal to stop issuing seasonal permits after May 31, but the deadline was overturned in court, Fire Marshal William Farr said. His office usually issues between 1,300 and 1,400 fireworks permits every year, he said.

Sheely and Palmer applied in mid-May for a permit to sell fireworks. They decided it might be fun to break into the business after they learned that their tent’s previous owner was selling. The tent had been Coastal Electric’s seasonal business neighbor for several years.

About two months and lots of product testing later, twins Amber and Krystal Palmer, 15, are keeping busy restocking fireworks and hanging out at the tent.

Krystal said she’s been having a good time helping customers, stocking and checking people out. Sometimes her friends will stop in. Both girls are sophomores at Rock Bridge High School.

Sheely’s 6-year-old son, Webb, likes to help the kids who come in pick out fireworks. Next year, she might let him buy a few fireworks to sell himself, to help teach him about money, she said.

Family Fireworks will be open from about 9 a.m. to midnight through Sunday. Monday the tent will be open for a clearance sale, Sheely said. The tent is located off Scott Boulevard outside Columbia near the MKT trailhead.

Inside city limits, some residents may be confused by a revision in city ordinances that changes the law regarding the sale of fireworks in Columbia, said Columbia Fire Department spokesman Steven Sapp.

It is illegal to buy or discharge fireworks in Columbia, but an ordinance change going into effect this year allows stands that operated the year before annexation to re-open at the same location for seven years after the land is annexed, Sapp said. The ban on discharging fireworks still applies to Columbia.

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