“Hey, where’d you get that shirt? I love Black Cat fireworks!” That’s what Winco CEO Mike Collar hears whenever he wears one of his Black Cat shirts anywhere in the United States.
When you think about the Black Cat® logo and the brand, there aren’t many brands with a logo that is as recognized across demographics and locations. And thought about as favorably. What started in China more than 100 years ago has worldwide recognition with little advertising.
The Black Cat brand stands for quality, safety and value and is known by consumers as the best you can get thanks to product consistency and of course a simple bold logo illustration of a fierce black cat face on a yellow background.
The Black Cat U.S. story started in 1952 when Americans were first introduced to the high-quality brand. Black Cat bottle rockets, firecrackers and smoke balls were some of the first fireworks ever produced and imported into the United States.
In the mid-1980s, a young Winco founder, David Collar quit his day job after he graduated college and began immersing himself in the fireworks industry. David, along with his brothers, John and Mike, had a plan to grow the business and they’d just dipped their toe in their first wholesale venture.
But it wasn’t until David learned all there was to know about Black Cat that things really started to take off for Winco. During this time, there were six companies in the U.S. distributing Black Cat and Winco consisted of just a few fireworks tents in Pittsburg, Kansas run by the Collar teen brothers.
As the largest producer of products in the world, Li and Fung started in fireworks a century ago with the conception of the Black Cat brand. The Hong Kong-based company supplies products to U.S. department stores, discount stores, specialty stores and on and on. But because of its long history with fireworks, it maintains a special love for all things Black Cat. That passion extends to the people who buy the brand today – more than 100 years later.
“Our customers are always telling me that their first fireworks they ever bought were Black Cat firecrackers. They remember the brand and have fond memories of buying the products for fun Fourth of July celebrations over the years,” said Mike Collar, Winco CEO.
As Winco began a relationship with Li and Fung in those early years, it didn’t take long for David Collar to negotiate a deal to become the only U.S. distributor of Black Cat products. It was 1994 when Winco became the sole Black Cat distributor and the company remains the exclusive U.S. supplier today.
Why was Winco the right partner? Because Winco has the same business passion for Black Cat that Li and Fung built over the years. And Winco promised to uphold the traditions of quality, safety and value.