South Florida

Under the white tents, fireworks salespeople have big dreams for the money they make

Armando Noche, 47, left, operates “TNT Fireworks” with help from his son Jose, 15, right. Customers are beginning to trickle in to buy fireworks for July Fourth celebration.
Armando Noche, 47, left, operates “TNT Fireworks” with help from his son Jose, 15, right. Customers are beginning to trickle in to buy fireworks for July Fourth celebration.

The extra cash could buy a first car. It could fund a college education. It could help find a cure for diabetes.

The money could do anything, but the people who want it do the same thing — stand under a tent in the white-hot South Florida heat for 10 hours a day selling the essential party favors for a Fourth of July barbecue.

Miami-Dade has more than a dozen of these white tents pitched in parking lots across the city. The “TNT Fireworks” brand is stamped on the plastic bunting on the tables, the fireworks themselves and the swag the salespeople sport.

Inside are piles of shrill and whining piccolo petes, neon flame-spouting blazing rebels and mounds of sparklers. But some customers ask for more.

“People always ask, ‘Where’s the things that blow up and the things that go in the air?’ ” said fireworks seller Ronald Hervis. “Nah, we don’t do that.”

Nobody in South Florida does — legally. Iconic as they may be, Roman candles, firecrackers (“the kind that sound like somebody getting shot,” as Elizabeth McCready puts it) and bottle rockets are dangerous and banned in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Just before 5 p.m. Monday, a man suffered a “partial amputation” after a fireworks mishap at a Fort Lauderdale home. (A neighbor told NBC6 that the blast split three of the man’s fingers open, including his thumb.)

Fire marshals cruise by the stands on the lookout for illegal goods. Last year, that vigilance led authorities to more than 2,500 pounds of illegal fireworks at a warehouse in Lauderhill.

Fireworks are displayed on the counter where Armando Noche, 47, operates “TNT Fireworks” with help from his sons on Monday, July 3, 2017. CARL JUSTE

Hervis, 50, said in his 14 years of selling fireworks with TNT that he hasn’t heard of any of his (usually regular) customers hurting themselves.

“And let’s keep it that way,” he said, tapping on the plastic table of his stand in the parking lot of the Bravo Supermarket at 10400 NW Seventh Ave.

Fourteen years of practice have taught Hervis a few things. He knows to keep the merchandise at eye level, to save the same Americana streamers and display baskets from year-to-year, how to engage with customers and, of course, to stay cool.

“I like it, but it’s hot,” said 7-year-old Violet McCready, who helps her parents man the Hialeah Gardens tent at 9300 NW 77th Ave . Mom and Dad do the selling; she wears a black T-shirt labeled “security” and keeps an eye on the products, or on the latest “Shopkins” episode on her phone.

Violet is diabetic. Her parents plan to donate 10 percent of the stand’s profits to diabetes research and spend the rest on a road trip across America with their children.

Her mother, 38-year-old Elizabeth McCready, sports star-spangled leggings and an American flag bandana. She ticks off the stops on her fingers: “We’re going to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; the Hoover Dam; Las Vegas.”

“And New Orleans on the way back!” her husband, John McCready, 49, adds.

Armando Noche, 47, right, operates “TNT Fireworks” with help from his sons. They’re helping customers buy fireworks for the July Fourth celebration, July 3, 2017. CARL JUSTE

A few miles away, 15-year-old Jose Noche also dreams of using his share of the profits to get behind the wheel. He’s saving up for his first car — a Hyundai Veloster. So even though he’s “not a fireworks guy,” Jose and his father, Armando, decided to give fireworks sales a shot for the first time.

There’s $13,000 worth of fireworks inside the tent at 3200 NW 79th Street, and TNT employees get to keep 20 percent of the sales. If the Noche family sells out, well, “that’s a lot of money,” Jose said.

Enough that the soon-to-be high school freshman spends his time behind the register dreaming of the color of his future car.

“Blue is my favorite color,” he said. “But I’m not sure. Maybe black?”