I am often asked how I became interested in the fireworks business. You know, I am not really sure when it started for me, I do know I was like any other kid who likes to set firecrackers underneath his army man set up and watch the dirt blow up around them! I have always had an interest in starting my own business and right after college, my fireworks business began.
It all started in 1993, when I purchased an old chicken shed for $25, talked my brothers into fixing it and painting it red, white and blue. This seemed to work out pretty well. My girlfriend, Barby and I did this for a couple of seasons and soon realized the friendships, relationships and service level we had developed
with our customers had brought in more customers! Our little Firecrack Shack needed to grow.
In 1995, there was a lot to write about. First, we built a large garage on my parents farm, right next to the chicken shack. Barb and I felt it was important to get out from behind the counter and let our customers walk through a "grocery store type" layout. Of course, this also allowed us to inventory a much larger selection as well.
That same year, I was also asked to put on a fireworks show after an American Legion Baseball Game. This show would consist of an assortment of product from the POPPER'S shelf. Being my first show ever, I had to make a good impression. This was the first time in over 20 years that Milbank was going to have a show again. In the end, I think I succeeded , as the finale consisted of asking Barby to come out of the stands and meet me at home plate. With a big heart shaped sign lit with sparklers reading Mark + Barby , I got down on one knee and proposed to my wife to be.......and the rest was history.....or so it began!!!
The following year, I was asked again to do a fireworks show for the City of Milbank and this time it would be at Lake Farley Park. Now I had to think of how to make this event bigger and better. The show consisted of quick fusing several shelf items on a long plank and firing them in succession. The crowd was impressed and so was I..... Now that I had a couple of shows under my belt. This worked pretty well for a couple of years, but I knew that I had to bring a better event to the community.
In 1999, I received my PGI (Pyrotechnics Guild International) certificate which certified me as a trained pyrotechnic. That same year, I began working with a local team, a.k.a. The PYRO CREW, who also received training and were also interested in putting together a fireworks show. This is when the big show began as we now moved from Consumer fireworks( Class C) to Display Fireworks (Class B). We were on to having one of the best shows in that part of the state with some shells sizing as large as 12" in diameter!
In 2001, POPPER'S FIREWORKS opened our second store right on the South Dakota/Minnesota border. This location allowed us to bring in a larger assortment of product, as now we could share our inventory among both places. We also found that many of our customers were coming back year after year, and it seemed like every 4th of July season was a family reunion!!
In 2007, we moved our Milbank location a few hundred feet to the west of our old building. We felt it was important to offer more room to shop and keep our product selection high as well as work on future plans to make the shopping experience better in air conditioned comfort.
Another advancement was made that year with the Milbank show, as an electronic firing board and equipment was donated by the Bracht family to the fire department in an effort to promote safety. Not only did the show become a safer situation in the field, but I now could script and choreograph our show to music. The local radio station had gotten involved in broadcasting the event in real time. The crowds began to get larger and larger every year as the trial and error of a once a season performance began to look and sound pretty good!!! Today, the Milbank Fireworks Show is rated one of "the best" in the State!!!
Today, POPPER'S FIREWORKS continues to strive to be the best in new products, outstanding service and professional advice in fireworks safety. We enjoy coming back to Milbank not only to work our retail stands, but most importantly to visit with family and friends and give back to the community that has truly earned it's motto "YOU'LL LIKE MILBANK"!!!