Kirk Myers fondly recalls childhood memories of celebrating the Fourth of July.
He remembers the stockpile of bottle rockets blasted off in 1976, the last year they were legal, and gathering with friends and families to celebrate America.
Today, Kirk has turned his “pyro gene” into a thriving fireworks business called Kracklin’ Kirk’s that includes six retail locations across Nebraska and a growing wholesale business featuring his Boomin’ Bulldog brand of fireworks.
The business, based in Crete, started in 1993 when Kirk found himself unemployed for a short time due to a company merger. He started a part-time fireworks business in York just to get by until he found another job in his career field in computers.
“I was doing anything to help get diapers for a couple of boys we had at home, Ramen noodles on the table, gas in the car and whatever we needed,” Kirk said.
Kirk continued to grow the fireworks business as a part-time gig until 2011 when it became his full-time business.
Today, he employs three other full-time staff and works year-round to make Fourth of July a fun celebration for families across the Midwest.
“We literally work year-round getting ready for a couple of days a year,” Kirk said.
One of his full-time employees is his son, and Kirk hopes to continue to expand his family-owned business to preserve it for future generations.
Creating a Brand
Most customers would recognize the fireworks brand Black Cat. Kirk’s brand is called Boomin’ Bulldog and the logo features a white Bulldog. His line of fireworks includes more than 200 different products ranging from fountains and artillery shells to roman candles and novelty fireworks. Kirk and his team create the concept for a firework and then work with manufacturers to turn that idea into a reality.
He’s working on a new one for next year called “Go Big Red” that will feature red and white colors in honor of the Huskers. He also found a manufacturer that could make fireworks in the shape of a ball cap. So, he worked with them to create a fountain firework in the shape of a “Make America Great Again” cap.
Kirk sells his Boomin’ Bulldog fireworks wholesale to fireworks stands across the United States.
In addition to his wholesale brand, Kirk and his team operate several fireworks stands in Nebraska, including in Doniphan, Waterloo, Springfield, Denton, Hickman and Dakota City.
He was honored to recently win a “Best of Omaha” first-place ranking for his fireworks stands despite not having a location directly in the Omaha city limits. His stands are located in small towns outside of Omaha.
Kirk said part of the reason for his success is the wide selection of brands available at his fireworks stands. While many stands sell between one and five brands, he sells 25 different brands of fireworks in addition to his private brand.
“We have a huge selection, and we cherry-pick the best from those lines,” Kirk said.
The company focuses on product selection, service and pricing to stay ahead of competitors.
Connecting with GROW
Kracklin’ Kirk’s joined GROW Nebraska in 2019 to glean advice from the annual MarkeTech conference and to continue to learn and expand upon marketing opportunities.
“It just opened our eyes to how we should be doing Facebook and how we should be doing YouTube,” Kirk said of MarkeTech. “It’s the year 2020, and newspapers are almost dead. The internet and mobile apps are the world we live in.”
Kracklin’ Kirk’s recently started a YouTube channel where customers can view samples of the fireworks in action before they make a purchase.
The company has tried some new methods of social media advertising after working with GROW Nebraska.
Craig Hamre, marketing manager for Kracklin’ Kirk’s, participated in a Digital Promise Facebook marketing program through GROW and said the training was “very beneficial.”
“The most beneficial aspect of the training was in seeing what other businesses were doing to grow the effectiveness of their social-media marketing efforts,” Craig said.
After the training, Craig said they started using Facebook stories and started successfully asking customers to write five-star reviews of their business on their Facebook page.
Craig also participated in the Nebraska State Fair GROW Nebraska store to grow the company’s brand recognition. They collected names and contact information from people who were interested in purchasing fireworks and will text message those potential customers with details on the 2020 fireworks season.
Kirk’s future goals for the business include expanding to other major areas of the country, such as Kansas City or Oklahoma City, and to establish a location that could open year-round in one of those locations. Nebraska doesn’t allow year-round sales of fireworks.
Kirk said this year has been a challenging one with the COVID-19 pandemic closing fireworks factories in China for several months. Shipments are later than normal.
Many cities have canceled their community fireworks displays due to the virus, Kirk said. That could, however, be a boom for his business.
“I think people are sick of being locked up and hearing depressing news, and they just want to get together, have a party and celebrate,” Kirk said. “I’m hopeful that sales are good.”
The Fourth of July also falls on a Saturday this year, which could also increase sales.
While every city has different fireworks rules and regulations, Kirk said most of his sales will be between June 25 and July 4 in Nebraska.
He will offer masks for workers and recommend social distancing at his fireworks stands this summer and is looking forward to giving customers something to celebrate.
“I like giving people lifetime memories because typically it involves friends and family and fun, freedom and food, and grilling out and fireworks,” Kirk said. “We wish everyone a great Independence Day. We have a great gift here in America. There’s nowhere else I’d want to spend my life.”
For more information about Kracklin’ Kirks and the company’s upcoming fireworks sales, hours and locations, call 402-265-6577, visit the company’s GROW membership page here or visit the website at www.kracklinkirks.com or facebook at www.facebook.com/kracklinkirks.