MANCHESTER, Maine — Two months after Maine legalized the sale and use of fireworks, the state’s first store is set to open. And more are to come.
Steve Marson, who has owned Central Maine Pyrotechnics in Hallowell for 26 years, received his license to open the state’s first retail fireworks store on Tuesday. He will be open for business on Thursday.
“We’re excited about it. The people who are working for us are excited about it. Here we are,” said Marson while standing inside Pyro City Fireworks Store in Manchester. The building was undergoing its final preparatory work before a soft opening beginning on Thursday.
The Manchester location will be the first of four stores Marston will open before July, he said. A store in Edgecomb is next on the list, with an opening slated for the end of March or first of April. It will be followed by Winslow in April and a store in Presque Isle or Houlton in May.
He said he’s also eyeing the Lubec and Calais areas for a seasonal store and a location in Brewer.
The Manchester store was lined Tuesday with a variety of fireworks, including firecrackers, fountains, Roman candles, shells and novelties. But one has to be at least 21 years old with a valid ID to buy any of them. Every purchase also includes a list of precautions to help keep the customer safe.
“We’re doing everything we can to communicate safety to the people and make sure we have a safe store for everyone to come into, and also to allow the public to understand what it is they have at their fingertips now,” said Marson.
Marson said the variety of fireworks has greatly expanded over the decades. Some of the fireworks people traditionally think of, such as M80s, will not be sold in his stores or anywhere else.
“You can’t buy an M80 anymore. They’re not allowed anywhere in the United States,” said Marson. “M80s, cherry bombs or quarter sticks of dynamite [are illegal in this country].”
Marson said there’s still plenty to choose from.
“It’s a full array of everything, up to 500 grams of powder and anything up to three-inch-diameter shell,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it for retail in regards to product that’s available now than what it was before.”
Fireworks allowed in some other states that are illegal in Maine include parachute-style shells, spinners, missiles and rockets, he said.
“That means anything that’s on a stick or anything that has a fin cannot be sold in the state of Maine,” said Marson.
Marson has worked in the fireworks industry for nearly three decades. Central Maine Pyrotechnics put on 225 fireworks displays for the Fourth of July, New Year’s and other celebrations for cities in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont last year, he said.
The people being hired to work at his stores were previously jobless, he said.
“I looked at it as an opportunity to put people to work that are unemployed,” Marson said. “The people we hired here were people that were out of work. My main mission at all of my locations is not about hiring someone who already has a job, it’s about finding people who meet our application requirements so we can put them to work and give them a very good-paying job with benefits.”
Marson said each store will have three to five full-time employees.
“We’re looking to have 20 full-time employees and 10 to 15 seasonal employees from May to October,” he said.
Twenty-four cities and towns in Maine have prohibited the sale and-or use of fireworks, or have placed restrictions on the sale or use of fireworks, including Bangor, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Orono, Portland, South Portland, Rockland and Holden.
Correction: Image captions on an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that fireworks became legal in Maine on Feb. 1, 2012. The law lifting the ban on fireworks went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.