For many, bikini-clad women and fireworks stands are sure signs that summer is here.
But some Puyallup citizens say the two don’t belong together.
Taking a cue from the area’s proliferation of bikini espresso joints, a stand called Nearly Naked Fireworks opened June 28 on the corner of North Meridian Street and Fifth Avenue Northeast.
Neighbors who live on the north end of downtown Puyallup are not happy. As of Wednesday afternoon, a total of 17 people had contacted Puyallup city officials to complain about the bikini fireworks stand.
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The sign for the business – which reads “Nearly Naked Fireworks” in block letters, flanked by female silhouettes – is particularly offensive, said one resident, Annie Starwich Claeys.
Claeys said the main issue is the stand’s close proximity to Grayland Park, a popular destination for parents and their kids. The park is less than a block away from the fireworks stand, which occupies part of a Walt’s Auto Care Center parking lot.
“We have lots of young families with young children who are walking past that every day to go to the park,” said Claeys, who has three children under 16. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate by a grade school or a park. It’s just tacky.”
Puyallup City Manager Gary McLean said city officials aren’t wild about having the bikini fireworks stand on Meridian, the city’s main thoroughfare. But there aren’t any laws under which the city can regulate the stand or its attention-grabbing sign, he said.
“Simply put, nudity is prohibited, but wearing a bikini is not,” McLean said. “Local governments are not allowed to regulate speech in the private sector, so we can’t censor the name.”
Business owner Rikk Martin said he decided to open the stand this year after noticing the success of coffee stands that employ bikini baristas.
“It seems like it sells coffee – it should sell fireworks,” Martin said Wednesday.
He said he thinks people who are upset about the business are overreacting.
“You see girls dressed as scantily clad as mine at any park you go to,” Martin said. “It’s nothing obscene.”
Outside the stand on Wednesday, one bikini-clad employee stood on the street corner holding a sign that read, “Discount Fireworks.” A few cars honked at her as they drove past.
A sign inside the fireworks tent read, “Don’t be afraid to stare... That’s what there here for.”
One employee, 26-year-old Tiffany Shull, said she was happy to work in a bikini to beat the heat.
“On a day like this, you don’t want to be all geared up,” said Shull, who has an 8-year-old son and studies radiology at Tacoma Community College. “It’s very nice to wear this instead of sweats and a tank.”
Walt’s Auto Care Center, which owns the land the fireworks stand sits on, has received two complaints about the business, said Ken Pierce, a district manager for the auto care chain.
Pierce said enough citizen complaints could cause the company to reconsider whether to approve a lease agreement with Nearly Naked Fireworks next year.
“Any time you get people who are concerned, we take it seriously,” Pierce said.
The fireworks stand will close for the year the evening of July 4. Martin said he’s not sure whether he will open with the same concept next year.
Steve Shores, another Puyallup resident who wrote the city to complain, said he thinks the sign for the fireworks stand gives people a negative image of Puyallup as they drive down Meridian Street.
“It is the gateway to Puyallup,” Shores said. “We need to put our best foot forward there. Are we really doing that?”
Melissa Santos: 253-552-7058