MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

July 3, 2014

Fireworks fans run booming business

Couple brings in customers from miles away

MAUD — It’s tough to say why someone would drive nine hours — that’s the current record — to buy fireworks from Frank and Jennie Roy at their seasonal business, Kaboom Fireworks.

“It’s not our brilliant personalities. It’s definitely our prices,” Jennie, 50, jokes.

But perhaps it is, in fact, their personalities.

The Roys’ enthusiasm for the Fourth of July is contagious. Their store is full of laughter. One pyrotechnic product — smoke balls, are their most popular product. They sell 56,000 of them each year.

Kaboom Fireworks is a destination. Tucked out in the middle of rural countryside about 60 miles southeast of Oklahoma City — FedEx uses the store as a landmark when delivering to the community — Kaboom attracts more customers each year than the total population of Maud.

This rural town of about 1,000 people doesn’t even need a stoplight. But for three weeks a year, the world comes to Maud, including a customer who once drove from Corpus Christi, Texas.

The Roys, who’ve been married 24 years, greet visitors in bright yellow T-shirts with red wording that proclaim themselves, “Fireworks Product Specialist.”

Frank, 51, spices his outfit with a pair of American flag suspenders. On July Fourth — the Roys’ favorite holiday, coincidentally — he typically dons a red, white and blue, crazy-hair visor cap that says “Kaboom.”

The couple has given their business the motto “A Pyro’s Paradise.” The shop’s walls are lined with every firework imaginable and then some — 365 different types, to be exact.

“It started out as a little fireworks stand on the side of the road and just avalanched into this,” Frank said as the couple reminisced over three decades in business.

Frank, who hates the hot summer temperatures, was worried about Jennie spending her days in a hot fireworks stand. So, the U.S. Army retiree envisioned and built a 12-by-16-foot, air-conditioned building on skids.

That’s since grown to a 4,080-square-foot building with a sprinkler system so elaborate that it cost more than a small home. The Roys provide employees a map to help find specific fireworks.

Kaboom Fireworks draws thousands of people — who in turn purchase hundreds of thousands of pounds of fireworks — in just three weeks the shop opens each year. The Roys now employ 16 people whose ages range from 15 to 76.

Jennie credits Frank as the brains of the operation. He says he quickly learned she’s the boss, because she’s more detailed oriented, of course.

Each year the Roys attend several different exhibits to see distributors shoot off thousands of fireworks products. Armed with pen and paper, the couple takes notes and only stock the shop with the fireworks they like best, figuring those are the ones their customers will like as well.

This year, that’s 365 kinds. And the Roys can tell you exactly what each does. So, too, can their employees.

When the Roys have their annual fireworks show at home in Maud — before opening on June 15 — their employees aren’t watching for fun.

“It’s actually a training seminar because the salesmen are required to take notes and keep up with everything. They have a lot of memorization to do,” Jennie said.

The Roys say they have one goal before the shop closes July 6 each year: earn enough for a cruise — this year it’s the Panama Canal — but don’t be greedy and mark up prices.

“It’s just the rush being out here and seeing people,” Jennie says. “Making people happy. Seeing the little kids as they walk through the door with the smiles on their faces is just amazing.”

Janelle Stecklein is the Oklahoma state reporter for CNHI.

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