Credit: Best Life
Many business owners make it a point to give back to their communities. Sometimes this is through volunteering at a shelter, or simply donating money and resources to organizations who need them. One deli owner in San Antonio, however, takes a festive approach to giving back. Aleem Chaudhry is known as the owner of Gino’s Stop-N-Buy deli, but many parents also know him as a stand-in Santa.
It all started when Chaudhry put a bright, red mailbox for the North Pole outside the store a few years ago. It was meant as a decoration, but some location children began using the mailbox to drop off their letters to Santa. While many might have just turned the letters over to the post office (or possibly throw them away) and bring the mailbox inside, Chaudry took it upon himself to respond to every single letter.
“Last year we had 60 letters by Dec. 15 or so. We have more than that already,” Chaudhry says. “Last year I bought the letter box from Sam’s and my wife said, ‘Just bring it to the store,’ and I brought it and it just took off after that.”
Over the past year, Chaudhry received and responded to over 400 letters from hopeful children. Children ask for presents for themselves, their friends, family, and even their pets. Sometimes, they ask questions about how the reindeer are able to fly, if he really comes down the chimney, or what elves wear up in the north pole. He does it for the children, absolutely, but the parents as well. He loves to see the smiles his letters cause.
To help facilitiate the holiday season, Chaudry has set up a Santa letter-writing station in the shop. It is loaded with paper, pens, crayons, and more so that anyone can write a letter to Santa. As long as a name, list, an address is included, they receive a personal response from “Santa himself.”
Running a business is already difficult enough. To take precious time out of one’s day in order to respond to dozens of letters is something most people wouldn’t bother doing. But Chaudhry knows how important the season is to families, and truly wants to make a difference in their lives.
In San Antonio, few people help to make the Christmas season bright like Aleem Chaudhry.