Joe Stonich is one of this year’s Santa Clauses at Shoppers Square.
How long have you been doing this?
My first year—my very first year.
What made you go for it?
Well, trying to get the holly spirit back into me. My friend did it last year, and he asked me if I would do it this year with him. We would split shifts, and it’s been an awesome experience for me.
What has it been like?
Rewarding. See these kids with their eyes big as saucers? And they come around the corner, and they look at Santa and they wave and it’s a very, very awesome experience. … I had one little boy who cried on my lap first. He got down. He wanted his cowboy hat. He had a real Stetson cowboy hat. He jumped back up. … As long as he had his hat on, everything was cool.
Have there been any accidents?
Accidents—oh, kids? No. No accidents.
Did you realize you were going to be having your picture taken with dogs and cats, too?
Yes. My buddy did it last year—Cecil—and he told me that there would be animals, and it doesn’t bother me. I have two big dogs at home, so I’m a dog lover. Cats are all right but dogs are awesome. I’ve had probably 10 pictures with dogs and two so far with cats.
Any of them get out of hand?
No. None, None at all. Their owners are really good with them. They don’t bring in the ones that would get out of hand. So they were really good.
Do you have children?
Six, most of them in California, a couple of them here. And I got seven or eight grandchildren. I think we have eight now.
How did they react when they heard you were going to be Santa?
They laughed because because I was a very bah-humbug kind of person, because it [the holiday] got very expensive. But this year, it was a very eye-opening experience.