By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Whether they were plain white or sporting a red and white design, the temporary venues started to gather crowds this past week. The miniature circuses in town were centered around fireworks.
And the only locally owned fireworks stand in Millington resided at 8165 Highway 51 North (former Ryan’s). Millington’s Lady Liberty Fireworks was ran by partners and fireworks veterans Billy Howard and Melissa Bast.
“It’s been a long, hot trying to get all this set up,” Howard said. “It’s been a lot of work. Hopefully it’s all going to pay off. The first week is always a little slow. Come this week it will pick up.
“My partner Melissa Bast and I started this back in December,” he continued. “We’ve been trying to work on some other ventures to get legalized in the state. I love fireworks. I wanted to buy Jake’s several years ago. They didn’t want to sell. Then sold about a month later. So I had been wanting to do it for about four or five years.”
Bast’s and Howard’s dream of being able to sell fireworks in Millington started to come to fruition this spring.
The Millington Municipal Planning Commission had unanimously recommended on April 15 the creation of a Fireworks Sales Overlay zoning on district for temporary sales in the city.
Commission members took the action during the regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Brenda Barber and seconded by Curtis Park.
Charles Goforth, planning consultant for the city, said Tennessee law has been changed to allow the sale of fireworks in Millington. But he noted that the word “fireworks” is not in its Zoning Ordinance.
“They gave Millington a shot,” Howard said. “It passed on second reading in April. The ordinance was kind of rushed. I would have liked to see it all stay locally owned stands. We’re the only locally owned stand. TNT out of Alabama has two of them. The guy who fought me from Lakeland has two of them. And then the guy up at Jones’ Orchard is from Dyersburg. I would considered that somewhat local. I am the only Millington born and bread.”
Goforth proposed an “overlay” district that would occur only from June 20 to July 5 and from Dec. 21 to Jan. 2.
“Melissa has been a part of the fight,” Howard said. “She’s been trying to get one in Lakeland for the past four or five years. They had the one who has been the monopoly in Shelby County off Canada Road.”
Millington was home to six temporary fireworks stands with Millington’s Lady Liberty Fireworks being the only home for the Marilyn Monroe & Elvis Presley fireworks produced by Brothers in West Tennessee.
“I manufactured these directly through Brothers,” Bast said. “You won’t find it anywhere else in Shelby County. This is some of the best sellers in the industry.
“Some people come in here and say, ‘Why don’t you have more of a variety?’” she added. “I want to put the best of the best in my tent because I want the best quality product to be the safest for your family. I don’t want any bad experiences.”
Bast and Howard noted that safety recommendation are given to customers when buying products. Bast noted that all the products in their tent have the strongest safety regulation and follow the safety commission.
Howard said the first week involves people coming into the tent getting more than a safety education about the fireworks.
“Hopefully on July 5, I am not carrying anything out of here,” he said. “I don’t want to reload anything and put it back in storage. It’s exciting because I know what’s coming. People window shop this week. It’s usually slow. They window shop liking what they’re seeing with the prices and quality of products.”
While Howard feels his tent offers the best, he said the business of selling fireworks in Millington needs some improvements.
Howard said things will get better in the future as far as the ordinances, but for now he said Flag City will start to see an immediate benefit.
“I want to see something in Millington grow,” he concluded. “With Millington getting the tax dollars off of this, it’s going to be an excellent boost twice a year. It will be a lot of money coming into Millington. I would like to see those tax dollars stay in Millington. It’s getting people to come out here.”