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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Vendors stock up for celebrations

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Fireworks officially went on sale yesterday, but Tom Esperanza held off the grand opening of his stand at Waimalu Shopping Center until this morning.

Thomas Esperanza sets up his fireworks booth at Waimalu Shopping Center, which will be run by his son, Matthew. Thomas Esperanza, who has been selling firecrackers for 15 years, expects to sell four times as many firecrackers this year compared with last year.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Even so, Esperanza predicts he will sell four times as many firecrackers this year than he did last New Year's, and ordered 400 cases of the firecrackers, while keeping the number of novelty fireworks the same.

"Last year I ran short of fireworks," Esperanza said. "I think it might be the same again."

The unknown element is how many other vendors will be setting up temporary fireworks booths to sell the explosives between now and 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Fireworks can only be set off between 9 p.m. Wednesday and 1 a.m. Thursday.

"I think there's other vendors like myself, but I don't know where they are going to be," Esperanza said.

They did not appear to be in urban Honolulu, where fireworks booths are not as visible yesterday as they have been in other years.

In addition, Safeway stores that planned to sell the fireworks did not have them on the shelves yet, while other retailers did not or would not give out the projections.

Nevertheless, fire officials have indicated there will be more fireworks available this year after firecrackers ran out before New Year's last year. According to Fire Department figures, vendors have brought to O'ahu about 3,000 cases, three times as many as last year. They issued five wholesale licenses this year — up two from 2002 — and retail licenses increased by eight to 102.

Novelty fireworks, such as fountains and sprinklers, will also be more readily available this year — with 71,327 cases being brought in this year, compared with 47,985 last year.

Esperanza said he decided not to open a Kalihi booth this year, and will just stick to one in Waimalu, which will be run by his son, Matthew.

A manager at Wal-Mart in Mililani said it was too early to tell how sales would be this year. She noted that the store had ordered more novelty fireworks than it did in 2002, although the fireworks did not sell out completely. The store adjusted its stock to try to bring in more of the popular items so there would be fewer leftovers, if any, she said.

Wal-Mart, like many of the larger retailers, does not stock firecrackers, which have required a permit for purchase since 2000.

The satellite city halls sell the permits during normal business hours. One $25 permit is required for each 5,000 firecrackers sold.

Esperanza, who has sold firecrackers for 15 years, said the permits have been a boon to small vendors because the large retailers now stick to novelty fireworks — such as sparklers and fountains — to avoid having to deal with permits.

"It's just the smaller booths like us taking that risk, so we bring in more money," Esperanza said.

"With the novelties, I'll probably serve 800 to 1,000 customers."

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.