After four decades in the fireworks business, Lyle and Gloria Jaegler set up shop for the last time at Old Glory Fireworks this year.
“It’s been fun,” Lyle said. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a very, very good time.”
Lyle got started in the fireworks trade 41 years ago. After returning from Vietnam in 1969, he took a job at a cable TV company in Wausau. His boss had been doing the Wausau Fourth of July fireworks show since the 1930s, and in 1970 Lyle helped him for the first time. After his boss’s death, Lyle took over the show and did it for many years.
Lyle and Gloria were married in 1972, and she joined him in their business, Specialty Fireworks, a few years later. They traveled all over the state, and into Minnesota and Michigan, putting on fireworks shows. Lyle figures he’s done close to 1,000 shows over the years. Lyle worked a full-time job at the Brokaw paper mill and scheduled his vacation time to coincide with the big fireworks season around the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. In some years, they performed Fourth of July Shows in up to 8 different communities.
Gloria and Lyle have been all over the country working fireworks shows, as far as Las Vegas and Sacramento.
They sold Specialty Fireworks in 2004 and opened a retail store, Old Glory Fireworks, next to their home. While the store is small, the selection is big.
“All the stuff in our store here is pretty much hand picked,” Lyle said. “We have well over 600 different items in here, every bit as big a selection as the big stores.”
A special feature of Old Glory was the product demos they had done every year, when customers were invited out to see the new fireworks. They also offered open shooting July 3-5 on their property so customers could enjoy their fireworks without needing to get their own permits. Both the demos and open shooting have been discontinued this year.
Gloria has run the store over the past seven years. Starting every April, she and Lyle traveled to product demonstrations around the country to pick out their inventory. Some years they ordered it directly from the manufacturers in China. When she opened the store Memorial Day weekend, Old Glory would be open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. through the Fourth of July.
She has enjoyed her time in the business – “I love to talk to people about fireworks,” she says – but she’s looking forward to not being tied down to the store during the spring and summer, and having time to spend with her grandchildren and on her many hobbies.
“We’ll be open through July 10, and on the 11th we’re going to North Dakota fishing,” she said.
The store is for sale or lease, and Lyle and Gloria say they’re willing to help a new owner get started in the business.