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Family-Operated Fireworks Stand Expands as Business Expands
By Catherine Stortz Ripley
July 1, 2016

CAPTION: Kelly's Fireworks of Chillicothe is buzzing with excited customers. With the Fourth of July being on Monday, many customers were picking up their fireworks Thursday (yesterday) afternoon and many more will likely file in over the weekend. Kelly's Fireworks has been in Chillicothe for 37 years.


C-T Photo / Brittany Tutt

Kelly's Fireworks of Chillicothe began 37 years ago when Mike and Becky Sensenich were expecting their first child. At that time, Mike's father, Hershel, owned and operated a mobile home sales business just north of Chillicothe. Each summer, he'd rent space for someone to operate a fireworks stand during the July Fourth holiday. However, the operators chose not to have a stand in 1979 and that's when Hershel thought that his family should set up shop. The Sensenichs purchased enough fireworks to fill the trunk of a Cadillac and sold their product from camper. Becky sat at the door greeting customers with a list of items available for purchase. Once customers would make their selection, Becky would retrieve the items from inventory and sack them up for the customers. She used a shoe box as a cash drawer. The following year, the Sensenichs decided to call the business "Kelly's Fireworks," naming the stand after their daughter. The business experienced several expansions through the years - including moving into a single-wide trailer, and then a double-wide trailer. While the move into a double-wide trailer provided more space, the family found themselves and their business still cramped. That's when the Sensenichs decided to construct a new 6,000 square-foot building which opened last week.

"The last three years have been tight out at our old stand, but the last year was the craziest," said Hershel's grandson, Eric Sensenich, 32, who grew up with the business. The new building is across the highway from Kelly's original location. Half of the building is used for a showroom and the other half as a warehouse. The permanent facility brings benefits for customers as well as the business. Kelly's now has a permanent place to keep stock without having to move it. Before, the Sensenichs had to move all of their product in and out of a semi-trailer at the beginning and end of every season. "We had to do this because our main warehouse was used for other things during the off season," Eric stated. "Now, we can leave the warehouse every year exactly where it is at." The new facility also offers a larger air-conditioned showroom and more parking.

The new facility also provides shorter wait times since there are five checkout stands, each equipped with electronic cash registers and scanners. An estimated 1,000 customers from as far away as Kansas City, Warrensburg and Iowa funnel through the doors during the two weeks the fireworks stand is open. Many are repeat customers and some whose parents and grandparents used to buy from Kelly's Fireworks.

Although Kelly has moved away from Chillicothe (now residing in Cameron), is married, and has a family of her own now, she and her family return each year to help sell fireworks. This includes her husband, Doug, and children: Austin and Kaden. Also helping each year are Mike and Becky Sensenich, Eric Sensenich and wife, Brandy, along with children Gabriel, Memphis and Maeve; and a cousin, Teah Sensenich. The family has around 15 other people helping out, including close friends Tom and Marsha Kerr, Shanda Wagers, Becky Steinhoff, Philip and Erin Pohren, and Stacy Proctor. Members of Boy Scout Troop 120 are also helping. Fountains were the most popular products when the business opened in 1979. Now, the hot items are 500-gram cakes. Kelly's also has locations in Trenton and Brookfield. Eric stated that regulations governing fireworks stands haven't changed much through the years, other than the addition of a few extra safety requirements.

Kelly's Fireworks, at this time, is open just around the July Fourth holiday (June 20 through July 4); however, the family is considering selling fireworks year-round and being open a week before New Year's.

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