Two Owensboro teachers have turned their summer break into a booming – quite literally – family business.
Jenifer and Wade Wiggins are both educators for Owensboro Public Schools, but they dove into a new summer adventure two years ago when they began running fireworks tents for Independence Day. Their son was about to be a high school senior, Jenifer said, and the couple was hoping to pay off some debts before they took on college payments.
“We have a couple of months in the summer where we aren’t teaching every day,” Jenifer said. “This was an opportunity my husband found. He thought ‘this is just two weeks and I can do anything for two weeks.’”
TNT Fireworks supplies the Wiggins with everything they need to sell fireworks and manage their tents, and in return the couple gets a percentage of the profits of whatever is sold.
“The first year was a real adventure,” Jenifer said. “We have kids under 18 so they couldn’t come in the tent and help.”
And it’s not just the hours the tent is open that managers have to think about. Someone has to be at the tent 24/7, so Jenifer and her husband split the hours.
“It was 24 hours a day,” Jennifer said. “We basically lived there.”
For their second year, they branched out and opened three tents. They recruited friends to run the tents with them and developed a large crew, but that many tents was a scheduling feat.
“I took on more of a managerial role,” Jenifer said. “I did scheduling, paperwork, keeping records. Scheduling for three tents is difficult, making sure someone is always there, and that people have breaks.”
This year they’ve opted to run only their two most successful tents, one at Meijer and one at Walmart on KY-54. The same workers from last year have signed up again to help.
“It’s a lot of fun because we get to meet a lot of people,” she said. “My husband’s favorite thing is talking to people and hearing their stories. Seeing the kids come in and their eyes light up when they see it all is fun.”
It’s also been a source of bonding for their family and several of the people who are part of their team are also teachers and former students.
“The hardest thing is being 24/7 in a tent,” Jenifer said. “Storms are the worst because you have to protect the fireworks.”
She said they watch the weather constantly and have a lot of preparation to do for incoming storms. At night, storms are particularly tricky since it’s harder to get people to come help in the middle of the night.
Typically, Wade stays overnight in one tent and another worker stays at the second location. They use their Prius as a generator for one tent so they have power for lights and running the iPad that keeps up with sales.
Jenifer said on one overnight occasion during their first year, the people washing the parking lot at their Frederica Walmart site ran over the cord and the lights went off.
“That was a little scary,” she said.
The Wiggins have always enjoyed fireworks as a family, but never thought they’d be selling them.
The two locations are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the weekend. The Mejer location will stay open until July 6 if anyone wants to celebrate on the weekend following the 4th.
“It’s something families do together, so we’re helping create memories,” Jenifer said.