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Grucci: America’s First Family of Fireworks

Tory Johnson
My Family Business

Their passion for pyrotechnics is palpable, which explains why Fireworks by Grucci, with a legacy spanning 160 years, is America's first family of fireworks.

Their innovation and spirit have created spectaculars in the sky for some of the most memorable moments in history: presidential inaugurations, Olympic ceremonies, July 4 celebrations and grand openings from Las Vegas to Dubai.

"It's somewhat cliché to say, but I've got black powder running through my veins," Phil Grucci, Executive Vice President of Fireworks by Grucci, tells My Family Business.

His grandfather's great-uncle started the business in 1850 in Bari, Italy and immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island in the early 20s . A desire to contribute to the family's heritage comes with a price.

"It's not an easy profession. It's a tremendous amount of pressure because we're handling explosives," says Grucci. "It certainly is a dangerous business, but it's definitely high on the priority list to do it right certainly as a tribute to the generations before us."

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On November 26, 1983, the family's factory inexplicably exploded, killing two and injuring 23.

"We went from a very high because that same year we produced the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial to the very lowest," recalls Grucci. "We lost all of our inventory, our entire facility was leveled and we lost two very dear members of our family, one of which was my father."

The family committed to bettering the business, largely through technology and innovation, which have positioned the company as an industry leader.

Utilizing 3D visualization software is one such example. "We're actually embedding small computer chips inside of our aerials," explains Grucci. "It gives us much more precise control over where we're going to explode that shell in the sky and what time it's going to explode in the sky."

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In its manufacturing and assembly facility in Radford, Virginia, Grucci produces over three million units of fireworks every year. From overseas galas to small weddings and grand opening celebrations, many of the fireworks include chemical formulations that are exclusive to the family.

"We have a number of items on the drawing board to patent. It's very important for us to innovate from a survival perspective and also innovate from the creative aspect so we stay one step ahead of our competition," says Grucci.

The Grucci goal is to be the best in its business, but there's no guarantee of success for future generations.

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"The young people growing up in the business understand that it's not an easy hand me down. It's not going to be something they're just going to glide into," says Grucci, who hopes his children ultimately apply their education and experience in some way to the family business. "They're going to work for it just like we did."

Tory Johnson hosts My Family Business, a Yahoo! Finance original series. As a champion for small business owners, she runs Spark & Hustle, appears weekly on ABC's Good Morning America and will gladly talk to you anytime @ToryJohnson on Twitter or Facebook.com/Tory.