From Santa Hollywood

Insight into Christmas, the Holidays and the World of Santa Claus

Santa’s Chair

posted by SantaTim On April - 15 - 2011 3 COMMENTS

Many Santas like the idea of having their own Santa Chair.  Especially when they are actively trying to market themselves and add additional services.   Having a Santa Chair is a wonderful extra service you can offer you clients.  And yes if you wish, you can charge a fee for the rental of the chair at the events you are working at.

Most party rental companies that rent Santa Chairs or Thrones, will charge anywhere between $75 and $200 per day for a Santa Chair, plus delivery and pick up fees, which are usually $50 -$100.  You can easily get the same fee for the chair and give your client the bonus of bringing the chair with you and taking it when you leave.   I recommend not charging for delivery or pick up as they will only have the chair for the time you are there.  And when you leave the chair goes with you to your next party!

I have had a chair for the past six years and it has been a wonderful asset to my appearances.  And I can honestly say it looks much better than most of the chairs that you can rent from agencies or property rental companies.  Let me tell you about my chair.

My first official position as Santa was in 1970 for Bullock’s, a division of Macy’s, at their store in Lakewood, California.  It was the perfect job for a young, 22-year-old college student.  The traffic was good, but also light enough that I could study a little between photos.

They had a wonderful set, with a beautiful Santa Chair that was custom built by their engineering and maintenance department.   I enjoyed being Santa at Bullocks for three years and although the design and theme of the Santa set changed each year, the Santa Chair remained the same, except for new paint or upholstery.

It was this chair that I have used, over the years, as one to compare all others.  You will find that today, the best chairs and benches for Santa are generally designed and built by your fellow Santas.  The design and construction of these chairs is based on years of experience.

There are many wonderful and beautiful Santa Chairs out there.  And there are a handful that are sold commercially.   Unfortunately many of these commercial chairs, mostly of resin-cast construction, do not meet the day to day needs of a Santa and a Photo operation.   Some of them are quite beautiful, but they are just too hard to work with.

I have found that many of the resin chairs are generally not wide enough and more than not, have a seat at 22 to 24 inches high. The normal chair height is 18 inches.  So if you are sitting in a resin throne, your feet are going to be 4 to six inches from the floor.  This means that you can’t sit in the chair unless you have a step stool to put your feet on.  (By the way, there is a giant resin-cast chair and the seat is almost 40 inches from the floor and requires a small set of stairs!)

Another deterrent to the resin-cast thrones – it’s almost impossible to put a child in your lap or knee as the chair is too thin.   The only way to have kids sit on your lap is to scoot out to the edge of the seat, maybe only sitting on the front four inches of the seat, and then trying to balance the children.

Anyway, the reason for writing this article today was to tell you about my Santa Chair.  After almost 35 years of working annually as a Santa, I set out on a quest to build my own chair.  And surprisingly, my search for designs and ideas lead me back to that original chair at Bullock’s.  I have posted a photo of the Bullock’s chair, along with photos of my own chair and some of the finished chairs other Santas have made with my plans at:  http://www.santaswardrobe.com/othersantachairs.htm

The Bullocks chair was constructed from heavy wood.  I think it was from 2” x 6” Pine and that is what I chose when constructing my Chair.  The original chair was built in the maintenance shop at Bullock’s  This was back in the days when a department store had a wood shop, machine shop, electrical shop and the store’s engineers did everything.

I followed their design and used many of the same features.  Their chair had more of a fancy theatrical look, yet was constructed of solid wood to support Santa and four or five children sitting in the chair or on the arms.

My design is also more theatrical, but more of a fantasy look.  Think of something that might come from Santas Toy shop.  And my design is very utilitarian.  The chair has wheels under one end and can be tipped on end like a hand truck to easily move in and out of a set.  The chair is only 24 inches deep and therefore will fit through any doorway.   And I designed it so the back was removable for storage, putting in a small van, or using the base as a bench.

Initially I started building these chairs and shipping them all over the United States and Canada.  I even sold them to Toys R Us, Military bases, and Shopping Malls.  My brother Jim has a complete wood working shop set up in my Mother’s Garage and we could turn out a dozen chairs in just two weeks.

But the material costs and the shipping made the chairs quite expensive.  Especially the Shipping!  So, I decided to just sell the plans and instructions, with full scale drawings, and let individuals or shopping centers build their own chairs.   Over 300 sets of drawings have been distributed all over the world.

The link I gave earlier also has photos of a few chairs other Santas have built based on my designs.  Some Santas have also changed the design, making the chair wider or deeper.  One Santa also wanted more padding in the seat, so he changed the 4-inch cushion to a 6-inch cushion with standard spring support.

You can build your own chair or have someone build a chair for you.  As I said, I have a set of plans as do three or four other Santas.   But no matter what chair you build or purchase, I suggest you consider the following features in selecting your chair:

  • Make sure the seat of your chair is at least 30 inches wide and no more than 18 inches high.  It should also be 14 to 28 inched deep depending on the type and style of chair you get.  18 inches deep is a good average.
  • The seat of the chair should be level and comfortable enough to sit in all day, yet not so comfortable that you you will fall asleep!
  • The construction of any chair should be such that it will support your weight, plus a few children in your lap and a few more sitting on the arms of the chair.
  • The Arms of the Chair should be strong enough, and hopefully comfortable enough, for an adult to sit on.   (That’s why I like the 2″ x 6″ wood arms.)  Many of the old fashioned captain’s chairs or some of the resin-cast chairs are very uncomfortable.
  • The chair should be portable and easy to move.  As I said earlier, I put wheels under one side of my chair.  My chair moves easily in a van or station wagon.  Santa Jim Williams has a chair and bench design that is built from heavy plywood.  It folds flat for putting in the trunk of a car.
  • The chair should be painted in a color that will look good on camera and yet not distract from Santa and the children.  (Never upholster your chair in the same color velvet or material as your Santa Suit)

In closing, a key thing to remember is that the families are looking for photos of their children with Santa.  Most often, the chair is not important.  A simple, hotel banquet chair or a dining room side chair will do just fine.

If I can’t have a “Santa Designed” Chair, I would much rather use a regular, straight-backed, straight-legged, dinette chair with no arms.   This is what most families can use when you visit them.  And if there are more than two children in the photo, it is easy for them to stand next to you or behind the chair.

Just remember:  Stay away from folding chairs, resin patio furniture, and big over-stuffed chairs.  Folding chairs and resin patio furniture generally have weight restrictions of 150 to 180 pounds.

For example, if you are sitting in a folding chair a 180 weight limit, and you have two forty pound children in your lap, you are at critical mass.   The chair may collapse.

I also suggest staying away from the overstuffed chairs as Santa will sink into them and it becomes difficult to work or hold the children.

I hope this information on Santa Chairs help you in adding services to your work as Santa.

© Copyright 2011, Timothy Connaghan, RealSantas.com

3 Comments

  1. Hi Santa Tim, Is there a market for old Santa Chairs? I have an old one from Bullocks in the Los Angeles area and it is too big for out home. Suggestions on how to sell to someone who really could use it for holiday events? Thanks and have a wonderful holiday season soon, Jewels

Recent Comments