Archive for Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chinese see U.S. side of July Fourth

Ally Li, left, and Nancy Gao, right, help set up a fireworks tent in Lawrence Tuesday morning. The two women are employed at a warehouse in China that is owned by Eudora-based Garrett's Fireworks and are visiting the United States to see the other side of the business.

Ally Li, left, and Nancy Gao, right, help set up a fireworks tent in Lawrence Tuesday morning. The two women are employed at a warehouse in China that is owned by Eudora-based Garrett's Fireworks and are visiting the United States to see the other side of the business.

July 2, 2009

Fireworks can mark a homerun, celebrate a new year and bring together people whose countries’ differences are as numerous as the shimmering explosions of color that will fill the night sky on the Fourth of July.

The latter was the case for Chinese citizens Nancy Gao and Ally Li, who are visiting the United States side of the business they work for in China’s Hunan province.

Eric Garrett, Eudora, the wholesale sales manager, new product development manager and China operations manager for Garrett’s Fireworks, brought the two women to the United States so that they could experience the culture behind the celebration they spend so much time making more festive.

The company now imports its Grand Patriot and Lil’ Patriot Fireworks brands from China to retail locations in 19 states.

Gao, 22, is the office manager of the China office, and Li, 26, designs labels.

“It’s important for them to see why quality and safety are important and to see how the other side of the business works,” Garrett said. “I think once they see what people in America are buying, it will help them do a better job of creating products that consumers will want. It’s all about getting to know our culture.”

Gao and Li said China has similar fireworks punctuated celebrations punctuated several times a year, including every night during the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year. However, the Chinese also use fireworks to celebrate many smaller events.

“Fireworks are tolerated much more because they are so much a part of the culture,” Garret said. “When a new business opens, they shoot firecrackers. Sometimes it sounds like it’s raining, but it’s just firecrackers going of in the distance.”

When asked what were some of the things that struck them as strange about the U.S., Li and Gao both marveled at the peace and quiet they’ve experienced.

“Everything is so perfect here,” Li said.

However, Gao said they weren’t surprised by much during their travels because of previous conversations with Garrett about the U.S.

But then Li said she did think it was odd to see shops where guns were available for purchase.

“That was a major difference,” she said.

Garrett’s family began the business about 20 years ago. However, it wasn’t until after Garrett, 28, graduated from Kansas University in 2004 that the focus of the business was moved from retail to wholesale. That change brought with it a change in geographical location for Garrett, who began spending time at a company-owned warehouse in China.

The company now exports its Grand Patriot and Lil’ Patriot Fireworks brands from China to retail locations in 19 states.

Despite the recession, fireworks sales were up in most places Garrett Fireworks ships. Garrett said tradition seemed to override financial concerns.

“During a recession or when there are high gas prices, people tend to stay close to their homes,” he said. “You’ll also see people who work fireworks into their budget.”

Garrett said he was surprised the women were able to get visas for the visit, considering their reason to come here was essentially to work with explosives.

But the process, including an interview with the U.S. Consulate, went off without a hitch.

“I was a little bit nervous, but they just asked us very simple questions,” Gao said.

Gao and Li will end their visit in the states July 5, the day after witnessing the culmination of their efforts throughout the year.

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