HAMILTON, Mont. - Independence Day is a month away, but a fireworks stand owner in Hamilton is getting an early start.
Operating a stand takes a lot of preparation, long-term planning and the ability to meet ever-changing financial challenges.
Keith Chambers has been in the fireworks business 15 years. At his Hamilton stand, workers are busy unpacking and stocking fireworks.
Chambers has four other stands in Montana. That adds up to a great deal of inventory.
"For five stands," said Chambers, "it's a semi load of fireworks a year."
It's an investment of more than $100,000.
Wholesalers started ordering his supplies from China early last fall. Chambers said in fast-growing China, fireworks manufacturers are losing help to better paying jobs.
"Consequently, they have to pay more to keep their help," he said.
For the business man, it's meant a 20 to 30 percent increase in cost.
"You're supposed to pass it onto the consumer," he said. "But Joe Public only has so much money, so you try to give them the best bang for their buck."
It means getting a gauge on what people want to buy. Last year,"Dirty Dogs" and "I Like That," were to best-selling fireworks. But that could change with public taste.
Chambers makes sure there are many choices.
He is hoping for a nice, moist year with no wildfires. "A drought and wildfires will shut you down," he said.
He employs 20 to 30 people. Drew Brushia was unpacking and stocking inventory with many other workers on Monday.
"This is some extra money," Brushia said. "It's fun."
State regulations allow most fireworks stands to open from June 24 to July 5.