A Day At The Firework Emporium

My first ever feature on a fireworks retailer.

In August 2002 myself and UKFR colleague Pete B visited the Firework Emporium Ipswich showroom in Suffolk to have a look at one of East Anglia’s best all-year firework outlets. In addition, the Firework Emporium were brave enough to fire nearly all their 2002/3 stock for our readers, under review conditions.

It wasn’t my first visit to see them; I’d popped my firework shop cherry so to speak in the early noughties at this very shop. So it will always have a special place in my heart. You never forget your first time!

Here is my report on what turned out to be a very enjoyable day.

Firework Emporium

This picture was taken before Warren changed the company name to Firework Emporium, until spring 2003 it was known as World Of Fireworks!

The Shop

Situated on the Foxhall/Bixley Rd roundabout and with a prominent orange sign, Firework Emporium is easy to find (even with my driving). On arrival we were greeted by Warren and Tina and an array of very interesting looking pyro!

The shop is open all year and with increasing postage and packing costs throughout the industry, it makes more sense now than ever to make a trip and get your pyro in person. Even the round trip for us from Norwich cost less in petrol than P&P charges.

“We opened the shop two years ago” explained Warren. “We had an existing shop but it just wasn’t big enough for the range we wanted to carry, so we moved here”. The move was certainly worth it from what we could see. Everything from sparklers, through to selection boxes, cakes, candles and some seriously big SIBs were on show. “Shop restrictions are quite tight” Warren continued. “But we have a licenced magazine very close so even huge orders can be fulfilled quickly, with a little notice. We also have a seasonal shop in Enfield.”

Firework Emporium
Firework Emporium

Warren and Tina getting a customer’s order ready.

The Stock

No firework shop would be complete without a nice selection of pyro to chose from and this shop has that in abundance. A quick glance around the shop and we picked out Kimbolton, Millennium, Men Shun, Sacred Arrow, Blue Moon, Devco, Weco, Minster, An Ping and Lidu. What was particularly pleasing was how the fireworks were labelled individually with an information card, explaining what the effect was.

On one side of the shop was a large glass cabinet full of selection boxes, each with the contents clearly shown. “We only use Kimbolton selection boxes” Warren explained. “We’ve tried most other brands but few are as good value for money”. This is an opinion backed up by our own readers’ feedback too. Questioned about the number of boxes on show Warren replied: “You have to understand that the bulk of trade for a shop over Guy Fawkes is this type of firework”.

For die-hard pyromaniacs (er, like us!) there is the other side of the shop. Here we find a brilliant range of cakes and candles and the best cabinet of all near the counter is full of some massive cakes. “We’re trying out some new cakes this year from Men Shun and Devco” said Warren. “We’ll be firing some for you tonight under review conditions so you and your members can see for themselves”. This is a bold move and few firework companies would be willing for UKFR to have unrestricted access to so much stock, warts and all. “We want to stock only the best items and are continually changing our range to reflect this” he explained. Warren pointed to one of his favourites for this year, Devco’s £45 Laser Beam Weapons. “I think you’ll like that one” he smiled. “See for yourself tonight”.

Rockets have always been a sticking point with UKFR, because the bigger ones represent poor value for money. Warren agreed: “We’ve dropped the Whoppa, for example. This year our big rocket is The Orb”. We made sure this was also on the firing list for the evening! “The bulk of our rockets are by Millennium” he continued. “We find their rockets have the edge in quality”. Several Best Buy packs were in evidence, such as the Comet and Kimbolton’s Medusa (another Warren favourite!).

Firework Emporium
Firework Emporium

The selection box cabinet, with each box open and on display.

The Service

Warren prides himself on offering useful and impartial advice to customers. “The good thing about an all year shop like us” he explained, “is that we have the time to speak to customers and assess their needs. Importantly, we can also ensure the fireworks we sell are appropriate for their venue. Unlike one-off shops, we are also here afterwards”. This attitude was backed up by their willingness to subject their stock to UKFR scrutiny.

We made a point of listening in while Warren served customers. One customer came in wanting a single, large display in a box. Warren first checked to make sure their venue was appropriate. Showing them a Blue Moon SIB, the customer queried how long it lasted. “This one lasts up to two minutes” Warren explained. “In firework terms that’s actually a long time, although it might not sound like it”. Settling on that one, Warren then took the time to explain how to use it. “Make sure it’s on firm, level ground and this way up. Take it out of the outer box like this, remove this fuse cover, and light it”.

Another customer came in wanting a selection of rockets. This would be an interesting one. The customer wanted rockets that would go above a tree, so Warren first made sure this was just a description of the height the customer wanted and they did not have any big trees in the way! “These will all go way above tree height” he said. “For your budget I would buy packs of rockets as these are better value and will last longer”. It was good to see the customer with a selection of Comet and Medusa rockets, exactly what we would have suggested. “This is the launch tube” he continued, “make sure it is in the ground firmly. These are the fuse covers, take these off before you try and light them”.

Customer of the day though was the guy who bought a few items for a small weekend bash. Wanting to make some noise, we grinned as he left with two Superblitznalls and an assortment of serious pyro including Blue Moon’s rocket pod!

Firework Emporium
Firework Emporium

Warren picks out the best firework for a customer.

The Review Evening

We didn’t just stop at a visit to the shop. In fact that was just the tip of the iceberg! At closing time we headed off east to a small village called Shottesham (near Woodbridge) for our first official “trade fired” review evening. The idea here was that Firework Emporium were willing to test-fire nearly all their new 2002/3 range under review conditions. We accepted this on the basis that the fireworks on show would be officially reviewed “warts and all”. We certainly take our hats off to them for being brave enough to do this.

Firework Emporium
Firework Emporium

The Sorrel Horse, venue for the test session and home to a stunning pint of Speckled Hen.

The munitions were to be fired at a pub called the Sorrel Horse. Naturally we stopped first for some food and Pete B sampled a pint of Speckled Hen which he awarded a “BEST BUY”! We also learnt that because of the noise factor, the pub had to inform the whole village, who it seemed were also going to turn out and watch. This was the best news we could have hoped for – in addition to review footage we would also be able to assess the audience’s reactions to various fireworks.

Firework Emporium
Firework Emporium

The Minster Pyro team setting up.

Following the arrival of another team (also filming, for the Firework Emporium themselves) and the firers from Minster Pyro, we headed off to the field to get set up.

What followed was a superb review session and we’ll be uploading the reviews – around fifty or more – soon. We fired everything from small £1 a time airbombs to the best Kimbolton, Men Shun, Devco and Millennium (and others) had to offer.

Many thanks to Warren and Tina for a superb evening and the landlord of the Sorrel Horse for his hospitality (and Speckled Hen). A big shout also to Minster Pyro for their professional setting-up and firing. Respect also to the “other filming crew” and I am not at all jealous you had a £9000 digital camera (worth more than the whole hardware that brings you UKFR, times ten) because our camcorder was better than yours! Heheh… A superb evening and we look forward to another, who knows, maybe with UKFR members and we can make it our first “gathering”?

Photo Gallery

January 2022 edit: I took a great deal of photos on this visit but – and this is hard to believe today – bandwidth and server constraints in 2002 meant that I could only include a few in the original feature and greatly shrunk in size too. So I am pleased, two decades later, to finally include a complete gallery of photos. It’s like going back in time 20 years.

Where applicable some of these have additional descriptions which you can view when you click on them: