There are few jobs that value a mature complexion, white beard and a somewhat stocky body type. But if you look the part, playing Santa like Bob McTavish does on a regular basis is a great job.
McTavish, 67, got his first gig as Santa five years ago when organizers of a Christmas party in Bala, near his home in Ontario’s Muskoka region, needed someone last-minute.
Word soon got around that McTavish “does Santa,” and it took off from there.
This, of course, is not his first career. He started off in business, and worked in senior management for a various retail chains. Twenty years ago, he left corporate life and started up his own real estate brokerage for business clients.
Eight years ago, he moved from Toronto to Muskoka, renovated his dad’s old cottage and was reconsidering his career options — the real estate business was slowing down — when the Santa work started.
“I was looking for something to take up the slack,” says McTavish.
The jobs working parties and parades fit his schedule: it takes up much of the early winter while real estate gets busy in the spring.
In between, he swims, snowmobiles, travels and goes to the theatre.
Two years ago, he got a big break. One of the Santas at Santa’s Village in Bracebridge passed away. McTavish now spends his summers there — and probably will for years to come.
“I’m reasonably young. I know another fellow who’s 86 and he’s been doing it for sixteen years. This is a long term position.”
This year, McTavish began working in malls. “I’m developing my Santa business just like I developed my real estate business.”
It’s harder work than parties and parades: the days are long and often run late (McTavish likes to rise early so he’s beat by 8 p.m.).
And, surprisingly, his business experience helps with his new job. “I was trained in retail where I learned you have to treat the customer with incredible respect.”
He often spoke in front of crowds for his job and he doesn’t get stage fright.
At parties, he roams the room chatting with kids and adults, making sure everyone’s happy. For parades (where he wears good quality long underwear), it’s the most fun when he has a mike and can chat with the crowd.
At the village and at malls, it’s all about one-on-one chats with kids, getting them to talk about what they want, what they’re interested in, and getting into casual chats about cookies, Mrs. Claus and reindeer.