Mall St. Nick Says He’s No Bad Santa

By Curtis Riboflavin

Published December 22nd, 2014

GUILDERLAND – Jessup Ray North knows it’s a good thing he resembles Santa Claus. Otherwise, shoppers might mistake the white-haired Schenectady man for a pedophile — right down to the children on his lap.

"Ridiculous but true!" the kind-hearted elf said.

North, 63, is a mall Santa.  Once Thanksgiving ends, his special season begins.

“Eleven months of the year, I look like a classic sex offender,” North said with a grin during an interview in a McDonald’s Playland. “Today? I’m Santa.”

North requires no phony facial hair and makeup for the role. He naturally boasts a long white beard, glasses and a tubby belly that shakes when he laughs like, well, a bowl full of jelly.

“He’s a wonderful man,” said Byron Folder, who works the counter at the McDonalds. “He not only helps children out at work. Jessup will let them sit on his lap here, too. I’ve even seen him escort them to the bathroom. Their fathers, too. He’s just a jolly old elf.”

"I love him," said Cider Barry, 39, of Manhattan.  "He's the best."

Between Jan. 1 and Thanksgiving, North lives in a motel on Central Avenue in Colonie.

“I have a lot of love to give, and I’m not gonna stop just because folks think I look like a ‘bad’ Santa,” said North. “That’s a lot of hooey. This is all about the kids ”

Russ Kewl, 73, a longtime associate of North who lives in a nearby Central Avenue motel, was asked how long he’s known the 'ole Saint Nick and where they met.

"No comment," Kewl said.

Seconds later, a tall bald man in a spandex shirt signaled to North that he needed an escort to the bathroom. North, ever the selfless elf, obliged. And off to the stalls he went.

“Merry Christmas to all!” exclaimed North. “And to all a good night!”