Andrew Dys

Teachers spend week before July 4 selling fireworks in Fort Mill

If you don’t like crowds, stay away from Carowinds Boulevard in Fort Mill this week.

And if you don’t like noise, stay away.

In the days leading up to July 4 near Exit 90 off Interstate 77, the first exit in South Carolina down from Charlotte, fireworks are not just legal, but a huge seasonal business.

So people pour in from Statesville, Mooresville, Huntersville, Mocksville and Reidsville – and everywhere in between.

And whom do they find at the huge Red Rocket store, a place dedicated for so many decades to July 4 and fireworks?

A teacher. Actually, almost a whole school’s worth of teachers, working summer jobs selling fireworks. Leading the way at Red Rocket is Kim Pyles, who has been selling fireworks each summer for 32 years.

“I have some regulars I have had for so many years from other states that they text me to tell me they are coming,” Pyles said Thursday.

Pyles’ regular job is special education teacher at Indian Land High School in Lancaster County, but she is just as identifiable in Fort Mill as “the fireworks lady.”

“Kim is the Queen Bee of fireworks,” laughed Buford Middle School computer teacher Bronson Martin, who year after year spends two weeks of his summer working for Pyles selling fireworks.

The store is part of the $1 billion-plus U.S. fireworks market, and July 4 in Fort Mill at the state line is not for the timid. The emporiums are huge and can get crammed with buyers. Cars sometimes park on the side of the road to get at all that is legal and loud and noisy and spectacular in our great state of South Carolina, but illegal to sell in that place called North Carolina.

So Pyles, the seasonal manager, has to find extra help in South Carolina.

Pyles looks for sharp salespeople who can explain the product. Who better than teachers who have the summer off?

“We have the best-educated fireworks staff on the planet,” she said.

Susan Van Hoose, ringing up the purchases, teaches biology. Greg Boney teaches special education.

“There is a saying that we sell fun – but here it is true,” Boney said. “People really do come here to buy for a good time, and we help them do it. They want fun, we sell them fun.”

Bianca Adams teaches English and sells fireworks. Bob Knight from Fort Mill Middle School has sold fireworks every summer for two decades and can help explain the physics and chemistry of fireworks to customers. Donna Moree teaches computers and sells fireworks.

Art teacher Brian Schauer, another moonlighting teacher, even uses fireworks in his ceramic art. He blows up and shapes clay with firecrackers and fireworks. He’s the salesman in the pork pie hat and smile, happy to tell everybody which are the loudest, brightest, best, wildest fireworks.

There are several other teachers working the other shifts, because through Monday, the store will be open 24 hours. All night fireworks, all day fireworks, huge crowds.

But no homework.

Related stories from Rock Hill Herald