From the Roman Candles, bundles of firecrackers to the iconic Jumping Jacks, the Mr. W Fireworks Superstore, located on the outskirts of town, is stocked to the gills ready for families to rummage through the shelves for their Fourth of July shindigs.
Stephen Funes, Mr. W. Superstore general manager, and volunteer Kay Smith were hard at work Tuesday, the second day of firework season, ready for the customers to come flowing in.
Funes and Smith are just two of about 30 people from the Calvary Baptist Church of New Braunfels who manage and operate the Superstore during the Fourth of July and New Year’s seasons.
For some, the fireworks bring joy every Independence Day, but for the congregation at Calvary Baptist, the pyrotechnics have left a greater impact these last seven seasons.
“Someone emailed our church from the Mr. W company — they’re a faith-based organization so they try to recruit churches if they can — and asked us if we’d be interested in it,” Funes said. “I work as the school administrator and our pastor sent it to me and asked me to look into it. (It said) we get to keep 18% of the profit so anything like that sounds too good to be true.”
Funes took the chance and shortly after, the church at 177 W. Klein Road took over the superstore at 177 Pine Meadow Road from an area fire department.
“It’s definitely been a journey because the first season we did everything the hard way. We’ve learned little tips and secrets to make things easier on our volunteers,” Funes said. “Everyone that works here is a volunteer. We definitely appreciate our workers very much. We work on Christmas Day and the Fourth of July. Overall, it’s a huge blessing, but it’s a huge sacrifice.”
The volunteers, who are all church members, came in four days before opening day to unpack and prepare the store, then they help man it when there are customers. After the season ends, they return to help break down everything and close up shop, Funes said.
Since the church took over the store, they’ve had the opportunity to raise about $75,000 for the congregation, Funes said.
“I think that first season, we made about $12,000 for the church. It’s unbelievable for a fundraiser,” he said. “We used to do car washes and stuff like that and now when someone comes up to me with fundraising ideas, I’m like, it’s a good idea but it’s hard to compare with something like this.”
Through the proceeds raised, the church’s Calvary Baptist Academy was able to build a sports program, Funes said.
“There was no way financially we could have one, but the first season $10,000 we made went toward starting a sports program,” he said. “We actually have a six-man tackle football team now. For most small Christian schools, it’s hard to have a quality sports program. When I first came here almost five years ago, to find a good ball you had to look and look and now everything is just good quality.”
Funes added that it’s been rewarding to see the students have access to opportunities like the sports program to enhance their educational experience.
Other projects the store has helped fund include the building of a larger auditorium, renovations to the nursery and children’s church, exterior church renovations, parking lot renovations, the purchase of a travel van, playscape upgrades, the creation of a school library and snack shop and plans for a courtyard.
Smith, who’s been a Calvary church member for 20 years, said the store has been a great benefit for everybody.
“My husband was the principal of the school for 15 years and they had all different kinds of fundraisers and stuff, but you could never raise as much money for the church and school as the firework store does,” she said. “It brings our people together I think and we get to reach out to the community. It’s just a real delight for the people.”
Additionally, the store has helped others outside Guadalupe County.
“There’s a missionary in India. He runs an orphanage with 50 kids and they’re always having things go wrong with their orphanage,” Funes said. “I think just recently we helped them with a sewer problem. They were out of electricity for a month one time and the only way they could have clean water was electricity. They were drinking contaminated water for a month. We’d like to eventually get to do that more.”
The store itself is housed in a large warehouse building that includes an extension to the left of the store allowing for more space for merchandise and customers.
“It’s the second season they’ve extended the building so we have a lot more room, which is awesome,” Funes said. “We have more room for a photo booth and we’re going to have a kid’s coloring zone to post all over the wall. There’s gonna be games spread out on the floor like corn hole for the kids to stay busy.”
As for the merchandise itself, the superstore sells most of what the Mr. W company has available and more than what any customer would find at a regular fireworks stand, Funes said.
“Fully Loaded is always our popular one. It’s the most powder you can pack into an artillery shell legally,” he said. ‘We sell all of ours almost every time. We have other artillery shells, but these are the most popular.”
The assortment bags also are a crowd favorite, Funes said.
“If someone just wants an assortment for the kids, they just come in and grab a bag,” he said. “The most popular one is the Red Bag because it has artillery shells, roman candles, sparklers and pretty much all you can want. It’s like Christmas in a bag.”
For those who want to see the fireworks in full action before purchasing, they can view them on TV screens or QR codes throughout the store.