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Lighting up the night

It’s Lit Fireworks opens FD store

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dan Winterfeld, owner of It's Lit Fireworks, left, and Molly Sanders, Fort Dodge store manager, pose with an assortment of firework cakes at the recently opened store along Fifth Avenue South.

For many people, a dark sky lit up by a colorful display of fireworks is the perfect way to cap off a Fourth of July celebration.

A new store in Fort Dodge is making it easier to follow through with that tradition. It’s Lit Fireworks, owned by Dan Winterfeld, opened at 1606 Fifth Ave. S. on June 3.

Winterfeld opened a chain of fireworks stores in 2017 after Iowa legalized them.

“We opened seven stores our first year in northwest Iowa,” Winterfeld said. “Currently we are at 16 stores.”

Winterfeld’s family helps operate the stores, including one in Harrisburg, South Dakota.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
An assortment of Greek God firework cakes are on display at It's Lit Fireworks in Fort Dodge. The store opened June 3. It will close on July 8 and reopen in the winter.

“We did have partners at first and we bought them out last year,” Winterfeld said. “It seems like yesterday we did this. It’s been five years already.”

He has had his eye on Fort Dodge for a few years and finally found a suitable location.

“It was a long time coming,” Winterfeld said. “I was searching with realtors for spots in Fort Dodge for quite a while and was actually struggling and then came across this lot. I love the location right on Business 20.”

The store was built from nothing in just 29 days. Local contractors Russ’s Construction, Ball Plumbing, Moeller Furnace Co., Tjaden Electric, MC Concrete and Construction Masters, of Badger, were used for the job.

The building is about 3,000 square feet. The Fort Dodge store is the southernmost It’s Lit Fireworks location.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
A fireworks display called Whacky Tobacky sits on the shelf of It's Lit Fireworks store in Fort Dodge.

Winterfeld said the size of his stores vary.

“We have some portable buildings we set up in some locations,” Winterfeld said. “We have some a little bigger than this one. This is our first build of a building, otherwise we a lot of times retrofit buildings, remodel them.”

Molly Sanders manages the Fort Dodge store.

Winterfeld is a farmer first. He farms grain and cattle in the Sioux Center area.

He liked the opportunity to sell fireworks in between harvest and planting seasons.

To Winterfeld, fireworks mean freedom.

“It is a family adventure,” Winterfeld said. “People are getting together to celebrate our freedoms on the Fourth of July and they do it in the backyard with a barbecue going.”

In terms of the fireworks themselves, everything from large finale cakes to artillery packs on down to children’s novelty products are sold at the store.

“We have the 200 gram cakes, 500 gram cakes and anything in between,” Winterfeld said. “We don’t miss any categories. We do pride ourselves on a good selection of novelties for grandparents who want to take their grandkids in to pick something out.”

Winterfeld said about 99 percent of fireworks are made in China. He’s been able to keep a steady supply, but said the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed shipments. One shipment is still in California and won’t be able to be sold until next season.

The Jekyl & Hyde, a 500 gram, 3 inch, 9 shot cake, is the most expensive firework in the store.

Top sellers throughout company include Shredder, Crazy Aces and Mustang Sally.

In Fort Dodge, Sanders said the Greek God Series has sold well.

“Most of the guys are putting together a really good show, so they get the 500 cakes and pair them with the 200,” said Sanders, a native of Burlington . “Right now my best selling one is the Greek God Series. It has six 500 gram cakes. They will put that one more toward the middle end of their show.

She added, “Toxic is fast. People start the show off with that one. There’s 52 shots.”

Streets of Gold is a Willow cake.

“It goes up high and drips,” Sanders said. “It crackles.”

She added, “We have our own personal brand that we sell at our store, called Scorpio Strike The Night, that has 24 different effects.”

Meanwhile, snappers and fountains are popular with children, Sanders said.

Fireworks are certainly a popular way for many people to celebrate. But they aren’t for everyone, Sanders admits, especially for a lot of pets.

So the store sells anti anxiety dog treats.

“Dogs struggle a lot,” Sanders said. “We carry anti anxiety dog treats. It has CBD oil and it works really well. It calmed mine right down.”

Nukana, of Sioux City, makes the treats.

In terms of fireworks, business has been steady, Sanders said.

“When we first opened we had a full semi and we are second reload,” Sanders said.

Fireworks can be legally sold through July 8. They can be legally sold again starting Dec. 10 and going through Jan. 3.

“During the off times, we will shut it down and restock it throughout the year as product comes in,” Winterfeld said. “If a business wanted to come in and rent it and offload we would consider that, but doesn’t seem likely.”

The store will be open most days from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We are excited to be part of the Fort Dodge community,” Winterfeld said. “We aren’t leaving.”

Although Winterfeld owns multiple stores, he plans to be in Fort Dodge on the Fourth of July weekend.

“I will likely be here myself on the Fourth,” Winterfeld said. “I want to come spread my knowledge of the fireworks to the customers. I usually run the one at the lakes at Okoboji but my kids might have to run that one this year.”

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