AUSTIN, Texas - For veteran Chester Jack Davis, fireworks are an American tradition that makes him light up.
"There’s nothing more fun than selling fireworks," said Davis, who owns American Fireworks. "For me it’s magical."
He’s been doing it since he was 15 years old. Now, his fireworks company has more than 160 stores and stands around Texas. But this year is unprecedented.
"It is a very different situation than I’ve ever dealt with," he said. "I mean it’s just very, very, very limited supply."
Davis doubled his order for this year after a spike in demand during last year’s Fourth of July. Though fewer large events were held, demand for consumer fireworks increased by 55 percent compared to the year before, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Even though Davis put the order in over a year ago, he still is waiting for much of his inventory. Most of it has to come from China.
"They’re on ships or they’re in the container yard in California, but they’re not moving, they’re not coming," he said.
Davis said it’s due to a variety of factors, mostly related to transportation. While the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for consumer fireworks, it also caused labor shortages and supply chain issues.
Meanwhile, Davis and his team are working with what they have. American Fireworks store manager James Orozco said not long into opening day he was seeing customers. "We opened at 10 o’clock this morning, and as soon as the door opened we’ve been pretty steady all day," he said.
Davis and Orozco said while they have plenty of fireworks, people may not be able to find specifically what they’re looking for, especially the more popular items.
"The one thing you thought you could always depend on is sparklers and we are very limited on our sparklers," said Davis.
Davis said they have been working around the clock to track their merchandise. They even rerouted some of their containers when the railroad they usually use was backed up.
"If I thought a drone could pick up one of my containers and bring it to me, I’d try to talk somebody into building a big enough drone," he said.