Morning Glory and Fiery Ball. Cloud Dragon, Crackling Rose and Mystical Tree. Those are just a few of the choices available to shoppers visiting the fireworks tent camped outside the University Foods grocery near Wayne State's campus in Detroit. Tuesday afternoon, Antonio Vaughn, 23, is tending to the makeshift fireworks bazaar.
"Light it up. You get 20 shots," he tells a customer, a woman who is looking at a box of pyrotechnics labeled Carnival Attack. "It shoots up in the air in different colors for a grand finale. Your kids will tell you you're the best mom ever!"
Vaughn, who also works as a valet downtown, has been in the fireworks business for four summers. He got into it when his former football coach Paul Delugi, who runs the business, asked him to join. They also sell their pyrotechnics at another site near the Faygo bottling plant on Gratiot and Mt. Elliot.
"I love my job," he said. "I get to meet people. I get to know people's tastes."
The most expensive item at the tent is called Empire of Liberty. It's a big box that launches multiple shots and goes for $100. Vaughn told The Huffington Post his most popular items are snappers, little pellets that pop when you throw them at the ground. They're cheap and the only items kids can buy -- so, naturally, they're the stand's best sellers.
Vaughn said sales are a little stronger at the East Side stand, but adds that he sees more children at the University Foods site.
"Kids come here to see what they want. But since you have to be 18 to buy, they get their parents to come back and buy it for them. "
Vaughn says business is pretty hot right now because of the upcoming holiday. He and Delugi have been at work since mid-June and plan to wrap it up for the year after the Fourth of July. Their efforts have been given a little boost this year by a change in the state's firecracker laws, signed by Gov. Snyder last December, which allows for more powerful items to be sold and used by consumers.
His customers seem to be enjoying themselves. One woman jokes around about needing help finding the stuff that will blow somebody's hand off. But she compliments Vaughn on his work ethic and buys some merchandise before resuming her errands.
Things couldn't be better at the tent -- except for one thing. Right now the stand is sold out of Vaughn's favorite brand of fireworks, a big-ticket item called the Kiss of Death. Some of the packaging is lying around, however, sporting a grinning skull wrapped in barbed wire.
"It's like a mortar. The tube is as big as a quarter stick of dynamite. It lets off a boom and shows off the colors," he said. "I'm personally a big fan of the boom."
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