Booming sales mean back to school

By Kristina Betsworth Published:

The recent legalization of certain fireworks may help one stand manager go back to school.

“I’ve wanted to go back,” said Will O’Neil, 22, who manages Tennessee Ted’s in Brighton Park. “I just need the money to do it.”

He attended Kentucky State University for two years, then had to take off last year because he couldn’t pay for more classes.

Recently legalized firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets have increased sales at “Tennessee Ted’s.” But will it increase enough to allow him to return to college in the fall?

By his calculations, he needs about $7,000 to pay off his student loans and pay for another semester at KSU.

“It’s really a toss up,” O’Neil said, about whether he’ll reach his goal.

And competition has never been greater. In the six years he has managed a stand, there have never been so many others scattered around Frankfort.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” he said.

O’Neil was 16 when he started running his own fireworks stand. His parents, who managed the stand before him, taught him the tricks of the trade.

“I always had a blast. I’m a little bit of a pyromaniac, I guess you could say,” O’Neil said, laughing. “Plus you get to meet so many cool people. You meet some characters to say the least, but there are some great, great people here.”

Before leaving school at KSU, O’Neil was majoring in psychology. He wants to become a children’s therapist.

“I’d like to be able to talk to kids and help them move past things that have happened,” O’Neil said, adding that personal family hardships have encouraged that desire to help others.

While out of school, O’Neil has worked full-time as a front desk clerk at Best Western on Chenault Road. He takes time off from that job to manage Tennessee Ted’s during the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July.

O’Neil says he is looking forward to the 4th, when he usually makes the most sales. A nice paycheck would bring him a step closer to his dream.

“I cannot even express how fantastic that would be,” O’Neil said. “I would absolutely love it.”

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