JOPLIN, Mo. — When you think of fireworks, you probably think of the 4th of July.
For one Carl Junction man, it’s a year-round focus. One that’s turned his working world upside down.
“No, no, when I was 20, 21-year-old Steve, I would have never ever thought I would be here,” said Steve Houser, Red Rhino Fireworks.
Steve Houser’s fireworks business is very different this year.
“My wife kind of refers to it as ‘Oh, now you’re on your ‘China workday,” because obviously we’re literally reversed from their timeline. So our six in the morning right now is their eight at night.,” said Houser.
Hours he now has to keep.
Houser is in his 16th year as a fireworks wholesaler, but he’s added a whole new dimension in 2022.
“So, we basically transitioned a little bit out of just being a fireworks company to really kind of being a freight forwarder and a true importer,” said Houser.
Prompted by the pandemic challenges of 2021.
“Our rates in the fireworks industry quadrupled. So we were paying, you know, $9,600 to $9,800 for container pre-COVID, and within two years we were paying almost 45,000,” said Houser.
Even just moving those shipments was also a problem.
So, he teamed up with a Chinese consumer fireworks exporter and another local fireworks wholesaler to charter their own boats.
“You know we got better rates, but what we really got was the ability to move product, whereas in most cases prior to the charter boat, you had a certain limited number of bookings you could get on a container. So, if you had 50 containers you wanted to ship, you may only get to ship 10 of them,” said Houser.
The new and improved logistics are making a huge impact from lowering prices to filling shelves.
“By the time the fall hits, we’ll be completely ready to go for another 4th of July right now,” said Houser.