Written by Katie Morford Monday, 02 July 2012 20:57
Charles “Charlie” Rempel got into the fireworks business while raising funds for his Indiahoma, Okla., church, a Comanche congregation by the name of Post Oak.
But for the past seven years he has turned the idea into a personal business venture.
“My first thought was, ‘I will buy as much as I’m willing to lose,’” Rempel said, explaining his initial strategy. “So if I don’t make any money, I’m willing to lose this much. I didn’t lose.
“The next year I looked at how much I had sold, and said, ‘That’s how much I’m going to buy this year.’”
However, that’s not quite how it worked out, Rempel added.
“The next year I broke my own rule and bought more,” he said, “and it’s gradually expanded until now I’m probably running about eight times what I did that first year.”
This year Rempel said he bought nine pallets of fireworks, though he was a bit more cautious after moving from his previous D Street location to his current venue on Ash Street across from the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator.
“When they moved me out of the other place,” Rempel said, “I cut my order back 20 percent. I wanted to see how this place plays.”
His former location was high on the city condemnation list, meaning this year would have been his last at that location anyway, Rempel said, and there were some problems with renewing the lease.
Since he had already been investigating his current venue, he decided to make the move.
“It’s actually a good thing,” Rempel said. “I have more retail space here, I can spread it out. I would have really struggled to get everything conveniently displayed and stored.
“This way I’ve got probably 85 to 90 percent of my stock on the floor right now, so I won’t have to do a lot of restocking.”
That also means the fireworks are going fast, though.
“My regular customers know, come in and get it today,” he said, “because come this weekend it’s going to be gone. Friday’s payday, Saturday’s an open day, Sunday’s the first day we can shoot in town.”
Rempel said he tries to base his selection on what customers seem to buy most often.
“The thing that most people like seems to be the artillery,” he said. “The difference between cakes and artillery is I put one shot into artillery and light it. It’s the best value for your money.”
But, Rempel said, he’s convinced customer Michael Bay, who is putting on a fireworks show on Main Street July 3, to purchase some cake fireworks because they’re “the most fun.”
“You light it, you sit back, you watch it, and you get to enjoy it,” he said, explaining that cake fireworks are boxes that you light once and it sends up multiple flares.
“The rockets go well,” he added. “I will run out of missiles, it’s guaranteed. Those will all be gone, including the ‘Noise Transmission.’ That’s a fun one.
“‘Frenzy’ is an extremely good seller. Everyone seems to like that one.”
Rempel said parachutes, smoke balls and “Watercrackers” go over particularly well with his younger customers.
But the cream of the crop is the “Godfather,” a $300 firework extravaganza.
“The Godfather is an assortment,” Rempel said. “Rather than coming in and deciding what I want, I?decide I just want the whole package and go home and have a show that will last for maybe two hours.”
He said he stocked two Godfather packages last year and had sold them both by the second year, so this season he purchased five for resale.
Rempel may be doing quite well at the business side of things, but he said his reasons for selling fireworks are a little more personal.
“Why do I sell fireworks? I like to get them cheap,” he quipped. “I am a good German.”
But, he said, all joking aside, “I like fireworks.”