Cotton Takes Love Of Fireworks To Family-Owned Business
By CASEY MURPHY
Crazy Bang Fireworks is a family affair.
Celia Cotton said when her children were younger, the family often shot off fireworks to celebrate the holidays and 10 years ago, she decided to get into the business.
"We decided it was something the family could do together," she said of selling fireworks.
Ms. Cotton, 65, opened a small fireworks stand in front of her daughter Angela Jennings' business, Noonday Royal Lube. Five years ago, she had outgrown the outfit and constructed a metal building down the road, on the corner of Texas Highway 155 South and Big Eddy Road, next to The Blue Store.
Ms. Cotton has lived in Tyler almost all of her life, attending John Tyler High School, Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler. Last year, Ms. Cotton retired from working at Austin Bank after 45 years in the banking industry.
During the July 4 and Christmas-New Year holidays, she spends her time selling fireworks out of the shop she owns with Mrs. Jennings and her husband Mike Jennings.
Mrs. Jennings, 42, of Noonday, helps her mother selling fireworks when she is not running Noonday Royal Lube. Her husband operates their other business, A&B Brake and Alignment, in Tyler. Mrs. Jennings' daughter, Sherry Chamberlain, and Mrs. Jennings' sister-in-law Lorie Hankins and her children, Dillon Hankins and Rebecka Bates, all help out during firework season.
"The closer it gets to the Fourth, it takes all of us," Ms. Cotton said of her family, adding that sometimes the girls get their friends to help work at the store as well.
Now that she is in the business, Ms. Cotton ironically does not enjoy her own fireworks as much since her children are grown, she said. But she enjoys running the business with her family.
"It's just fun; we're all together," she said. "We get a lot of time to visit during the downtime. It's just a fun, family thing to do."
Mrs. Jennings said she also likes working with family at the store, as well as "seeing the joy of other people who come in, especially the little kids -- their eyes just light up with excitement. It's always fun."
Crazy Bang Fireworks opened for the July 4 season on June 24 and will remain open until midnight Wednesday. It is also open from Dec. 20 through Jan. 1.
"Business has been good" over the years, Ms. Cotton said, adding that they have a lot of regular customers who come in every year.
After the drought curtailed firework sales last year, she hopes to see a good firework season. "This year there are no burn bans and we're real excited about that," she said.
Ms. Cotton said she keeps an eye on the weather throughout the year.
"Every time it rains, we get a little excited," she said on Tuesday. "It won't hurt our feelings if we get a little rain (before Wednesday) but it doesn't look like we're going to."
Ms. Cotton said having a fireworks shop with air conditioning is a real advantage and she is grateful for it after working so many years in a stand. "I know how hot it is. I couldn't go back to the stands," she said.
On Monday, Crazy Bang Fireworks stayed open until 9 p.m. and Ms. Cotton said they will stay open until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. each day, as long as they are busy. So far on Tuesday, business had been average but she expected sales to pick up during the weekend.
Crazy Bang Fireworks carries everything from small firecrackers and sparklers, to their top seller -- the Excalibur.
They also sell M5000, bigger firecrackers that are a favorite with teenagers; cars, frogs, pandas and other novelties for children; 500 Grand items that cause big explosions often used for show finales; and "cake items," which are lit once before going up in the air and making a number of explosions, Ms. Cotton said. They also carry a variety of artillery shells that make up to four big explosions in one shot, the Saturn Missiles Battery popular with the children, the Peacock, which is lit once and has 180 shots and the $240 Instigator used for larger shows. She said a lot of people come back every year for the One Bad Mother, a 500 Gram item that offers 16 colorful shots.
Ms. Cotton said families also really like the packs full of assorted fireworks, which range from $10 to the Laying Down the Law pack for $199. They also have a Parachute Battalion for $10 that can be used during the day and shoots off small parachutes. The hot new item this year is the fluorescent sparklers, she said, adding that it has been a big seller so far.
She said they have a variety of prices because fireworks are an extra expense for their customers. So whether they have $10 or $100 to spend, they can find something, she said.
"You see all kinds," Ms. Cotton said of her customers.