Bryce Jolley, of Jolley’s Pharmacy&Jolley’s Gift & Floral, recalls wandering from his childhood home on Michigan Avenue over to the businesses where the Jolley’s building now stands. “I’d stop by Family Variety and then wander into Fernwood’s where I’d sit at the old-fashioned soda fountain and order an ice cream.” Back then, everyone knew his name and at a very young age Bryce learned the value of a close-knit community.“I’ve always felt very grateful,” he says, “for the neighborhood I grew up in. I want those who live here now to have the same wonderful experiences I had growing up. And I’m always thinking about how my business can give back and contribute to this sense of community that’s always been an important part of where we live.”
One of Jolley’s synergistic community and business ventures is the delightful Jolley’s Old St. Nick—a Santa house that opens every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Unlike other Santa experiences, Jolley’s Santa visits are free and they offer a jump-to-the-front-of-the-line option. Visitors may either show up or register early and arrive to find Santa welcoming them into his cozy cottage, at his jolly best and with hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls and other goodies awaiting. There’s rarely a line or a crying child to be heard.
“I had the idea,” Bryce recalls, “for Jolley’s Old St. Nick about eleven years ago. I knew people were having terrible Santa experiences at the mall, and I thought we could do it better and have some fun with it. But I really wanted to do it right. I didn’t want any old Santa with a fake beard. I wanted one that was as close as it gets to the real thing.” Bryce met Rich (known to many children in the neighborhood as the real Santa) through a friend of a friend a few years later and knew he’d found his guy.
The winter after Bryce met Rich, Jolley’s Old St. Nick opened. Bryce built a gazebo with vinyl sides and temporary outdoor heaters to house his new Santa. Things went smoothly until the second year when gale-force canyon winds toppled the structure. “We didn’t know what to do,” Bryce chuckles, ”I had appointments set up through Christmas. So I called Jared Parker and he, myself and my sons built the cottage that now exists in four days. It was freezing cold, but we had a lot of fun.”Eight years later, the charming house still stands and Santa Rich is still bringing Christmas cheer to the many children that walk through his magical St. Nick door. Rich reminisces fondly of the many faces he has seen visit year after year, including a few where he has watched them grow up and leave the house for college or LDS missions.When asked what else he most enjoys about working at Jolley’s, Rich smiles contentedly and muses about the atmosphere, the one-on-one conversations and chance to get to know people at a relaxed pace. “It’s an easy crowd,” he chuckles, “even the ones that come in crying, I can soften up real fast.”Listening to Rich, you get an idea of how the children can be so easily charmed. He has a even disposition, an understated way of conversing, and of course there’s the beard and the suit—it’s hard not to be convinced.
“I never shave the beard,” Rich jokes, “It doesn’t grow back fast enough, and I like to give kids who are acting up at the grocery store one of my famous, ‘shhhhs’; even in the middle of the summer they get who I am and you can see their behavior change.”Bryce, standing in the corner, smiles as Rich chats about some of the cute kids and nice families that have come through the door, including one, whom Rich recalls looked and sang like Shirley Temple. And they both chuckle when Rich says his advice to kids is, “put away your legos so Mom and Dad don’t step on them”“You can easily see,” says Bryce appreciatively, “why we have people coming not only from the neighborhood but also from great distances just to see our Old St. Nick.”
Click here to schedule a visit with Jolley’s Old St. Nick or call 801-582-1600 for more information. Santa visits are free, but there is no outside photography. Photography packages are available through Jolley’s for $15.95-$19.95 with additional photos at $5 each.
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