SKOWHEGAN — Extreme Chaos. Fright Night. Neon Demon. Kaboom.

Subtitles from a horror movie?


Those names and dozens of others are for fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

Pyro City Maine, a fireworks chain that already has seven stores in the state, jumped right on the permitting process to open a store in Skowhegan after voters at the June 11 Town Meeting agreed to repeal a local ban on fireworks sales.

The vote was 54-46 in favor of lifting the ban.

The store is scheduled to open at 9 a.m. Saturday in the former Movie Gallery in Skowhegan Village Plaza on outer Madison Avenue — just in time for the Fourth of July.

Steven Marson, president of Hallowell-based Pyro City Maine and Central Maine Pyrotechnics, said he expects to generate $100,000 to $150,000 in sales leading up to and including the Fourth of July holiday.

“We wait all year for this Fourth of July week to be able to sell product to the consumer and show them how to use it safely,” Marson said as workers prepared the building for permit inspections scheduled for Friday. “When we get done, there will be a safety area all set up and we’ll have videos of how to do fireworks safely.”

Videos also will show potential buyers what the products look like before they buy the fireworks. He said he likes the Skowhegan location, away from residential sections of town, with plenty of parking and high traffic volume along Madison Avenue, which also is part of busy U.S. Route 201 connecting Canada to the coast.

“We have four 40-foot rows of fireworks and one 40-foot row in the back, so we have 200 feet of fireworks being displayed here for sale,” Marson said.

Marson said he has fireworks stores on China Road in Winslow and in Farmington, Manchester, Windham, Edgecomb, Ellsworth and Presque Isle. There are other competing fireworks outlets in Palmyra, Moosehead Trail in Newport, Livermore, Scarborough and Machias in Downeast Maine.

Marson said safety is key to a successful fireworks operation, and he pays $50,000 annually in insurance premiums for all his stores and another $100,000 for his $10 million liability policy, totaling about $180,000 annually for insurance.

The Legislature permitted the sale and use of consumer fireworks — not commercial-grade fireworks used by licensed companies such as Central Maine Pyrotechnics — in January 2012, ending a 63-year statewide ban; but it was up to communities to decide whether they wanted to regulate them further.

Marson said he came to Skowhegan that year in hope of opening a store and looked at the Movie Gallery building, but a later vote by residents that allowed the use of fireworks in town banned sales of them.

Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said the town followed state law on the use of fireworks but banned the sale in a referendum in 2012. She said the question was worded in “a three-way split,” which might have confused voters, and that 60 percent of residents did not want a complete ban on fireworks sales.

Under that rule, residents could buy fireworks in neighboring towns and shoot them off in Skowhegan, but the town didn’t get any economic benefit from sales elsewhere.

That all changed this month with the Town Meeting vote lifting the ban.

Maine law does not allow anyone under 21 to buy, sell, possess or use fireworks. Legal fireworks include those certified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, such as certain firecrackers, morning glories, Roman candles and flaming fountains.

Marson said the 4,800-square-foot building is in remarkably good shape, considering that it has stood vacant for about eight years. He said he replaced the fire suppression sprinkler system and added three emergency exits. The rest was cosmetics, he said.

“It’s a nice building. Again, I don’t know why something else didn’t locate here, but I’m glad they didn’t. I’m glad we got the opportunity to be here,” he said. “We have everything that’s allowed by the state of Maine law for consumer fireworks. It’s all available in this store, with over $100,000 of product in here. Under the law, you’re not allowed any bottle rockets or anything on a stick — no rockets at all — but we have everything else, mortars, fountains, novelty items, Roman candles, firecrackers, all the way up to 500 grams.”

Marson said he travels to China, where most of the fireworks are manufactured, a couple of times a year and sits on the product development board at Black Cat Fireworks in that nation.

“I’ve been doing this for 46 years,” the 62-year-old said. “I love fireworks. This has always been a hobby and when the state passed the law, I saw an opportunity to put people to work.”

The Skowhegan store will employ four to six people.

He said the other side of his business — Central Maine Pyrotechnics — has 53 traveling crews that put on commercial grade fireworks displays in all six New England states. They will have 135 displays going off in the next two weeks, with 45 going off on July 4the Fourth of July itself, he said.

Dana Cassidy, a 66-year-old real estate developer with seven shopping centers and three hotels in Maine, bought the 21-acre Skowhegan Village Plaza, where the vacant Movie Gallery was in October 2016.

He said by phone this week that he was happy to finally find a tenant for the Movie Gallery storefront, which had closed when the company filed for bankruptcy in February 2010 and shut down 2,415 stores. The company employed about 19,100 people when it filed for bankruptcy. It was the second-largest movie rental chain, behind Blockbuster.

The Skowhegan plaza, built on farmland in 1965, is home to Pizza Hut and Burger King with land leases at either end of the plaza and 12 stores in between, including a Subway sandwich shop, a beauty salon, a pet shop and the vacant former Radio Shack store.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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