Saturday, December 25, 1999

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Retailers say demand for fireworks is even
greater than they anticipated.

Sales of fireworks
take off like a rocket

'We have to keep the tradition
alive,' says one happy buyer

By Leila Fujimori


Nalani Shoemaker watched as her husband gathered $1,000 worth of fireworks at the Daiei Kaheka store -- just the usual amount, nothing special because of the millennium celebration.

"It's my Christmas present," said the 22-year-old unemployed Kalihi man, who wished to remain unnamed.

His wife, an assistant preschool teacher, said he gets other presents, but she would reluctantly make the purchase.

"It's a waste of money," she said.

Whatever the feelings about spending money on fireworks, people were spending and business was booming yesterday, the first legal day for fireworks sales.

"We're having a hard time keeping the shelves filled," said Erwin Uyeda, the store's merchandise manager. "We did expect a strong demand, but it was more than anticipated for the first day."

Joel Poladian, a visitor from Texas, was still puzzled by the craze he saw at Daiei's Kailua store, where he saw three youths fill the bed of a Toyota pickup truck with boxes of fireworks.

"It was a total mob scene. People were grabbing boxes of firecrackers off a metal cart," he said -- noting that in the Lone Star State, fireworks are illegal for individuals so people shoot off their guns instead.

Kanrad Sasaki, Daiei's administrative division manager, expected greater interest in fireworks this year because of the millennium celebration, although the store's order was about the same as last year.

"It's hard to say how much competition we have," he said.

Competition was there: from other stores, as well as stands and shops that pop up during the season.

"Wholesale Fireworks" at the corner of Nimitz Highway and Maunakea Street is one such seasonal shop.

The owner of a nearby karaoke bar walked out of the shop carrying his $1,200 supply of fireworks with help from two men. He wiped out the shop's supply of 100,000-plus firecracker strands. The downtown shop's manager, Don Anderson, hopes to get more.

Some residents, like Stuart Jow of Waialae-Kahala, were taking the time to shop for the best deals. He had picked up some fireworks at Sam's Club, and was about to spend $50 more at the Pali Longs Drug Store.

"I doubt this is all," said his wife.

Jow, who is of Chinese ancestry, responded, "We have to keep the tradition alive."

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