HOOKSETT – Hooksett Fireworks owner and president Christina Katsikas calls her store “the credit union of fireworks.”
“Everybody cares about us, and they try to save us money wherever they can by using cash and debit,” she said. “And then we pass the savings on to the customer.”
That community mindset has brought on, in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, what Katsikas said has been Hooksett Fireworks' busiest year since opening in 2003.
“It's the best year we've ever had because we have the best selection, we have the best prices, and we have the highest quality products,” Katsikas said.
This year, Katsikas is offering all merchandise at a discount of 50 percent off the sticker price.
In the past, Katsikas bought her wares wholesale from American suppliers and sold them at 30 percent off. Now she buys them direct from the manufacturers in China.
Lower costs for Katsikas brought about greater savings for shoppers.
Lower costs – and a sense of commitment to her customers.
In 2011, Katsikas and Atlas Fireworks CEO Steve Pelkey successfully lobbied the stage Legislature for the legalization of reloadable mortar kits, the consumer version of the long-fuse systems used in commercial firework displays.
When Katsikas later saw reloadable mortars for sale in competing firework stores at inflated prices, she felt those merchants who hadn't participated in the lobbying process were now taking advantage of her customers.
“What we were selling for $150, now at $75 half off, they were doing buy-one-get-one-free, selling two for $450,” she said. “I got so mad, that's when I decided to go half off.”
Katsikas said her 12 employees also make their customers the priority.
“People hire people for temporary jobs, and they don't know the product, and they don't know the customer from the year before, but that's important,” Katsikas said. “People come in and say, 'I want the guy from the year before who helped me.' And he's still here, and he remembers them and what they want.”
The days right before July Fourth have been particularly busy at Hooksett Fireworks, with a nonstop flow of customers, especially during a daily after-dinner rush, Katsikas said.
The store extended its hours, opening at 8:30 a.m. and closing at 11 p.m.
But so far, the influx has remained manageable, Katsikas said, thanks to her efficient staff and what she calls “the most beautiful web site in the whole United States.”
The web site, at www.hooksettfireworks.com, features videos and descriptions of more than 600 different products, allowing customers to plan their displays ahead of time, without needing to ask staff questions. Online shoppers can also create a wishlist and preorder fireworks to pick up in-store.
“Because they're coming in and they're more informed, they don't need our help anymore,” Katsikas said. “They're self-service now.”
For last-minute shoppers, Katsikas is keeping her store open on Independence Day from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“People don't believe us,” she said. “They keep calling to check. But the fireworks industry should be like the movie theaters, open on all the major holidays so you can come in and enjoy yourselves with your families.”