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Family fireworks business creates memories for more than 40 years

Posted at 12:03 AM, Jul 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-04 10:17:11-04

Dustin Hein wants his customers to share in the joy of fireworks he's known his entire life.

"It's like Christmas. It's that other time of year. That fun magical time almost. That's all I can compare it to," said Hein at his store in Delavan.

Hein is an expert on consumer fireworks at this point — he's been helping his family sell them since he was just six years old.

In the early days, back when the business started in the 1970s, the Hein's spent a month out of the year living in a tent, basically, where they sold the fireworks.

"Insanity. It's like a carnival. Dad would always say we've got that carny blood. And it is," said Hein.

From their first tent at 76th and College, the family business was a much smaller, and much more volatile, upstart.

"Getting ready for something that's so important that one time, and gambling like that," he said.

A few days of rain could scare customers away. Or a forecast of storms on Independence Day weekend could ruin sales and potential profit.

But the business has grown. Hein took over from his father in 2018, and this year, they have 17 locations, mostly tents, around SE Wisconsin.

Family is still at the core — Hein works with his sister, two younger brothers, half a dozen or so cousins, aunts, his mother and more.

Despite logistic challenges due to the pandemic, Hein was able to stock up over the past year to be ready for this Independence Day.

He bought a lot of his supply last fall and winter — shipments that were supposed to arrive in time for July 4, 2021.

"I want everyone to be safe. Respect your neighbor. Don’t do it too late. There’s a noise curfew, respect that. Let’s everyone be safe," he said.

Hein's shop in Delavan is open year-round, although the three weeks leading up to the 4th are his sales boon.

For someone who grew up around fireworks, and is still around them all the time, his enthusiasm hasn't waned. It's grown.

"Handling the fireworks. Seeing all those vivid colors. What does this thing do and that thing do. There's always a little mystique around fireworks," he said.

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