A little boy once called Santa Inc. right before Christmas. He ran down the list of what he wanted, and then he asked: "How can you come down my chimney? Because I live in an apartment in the basement."
Reid Midwig, who had answered the phone, could think of only one thing to say: "It's magic."
Not bad for the president of a company that puts up Christmas decorations in the parking lots of shopping centers.
"Yeah," says Mr. Midwig, a founder of Santa Inc., "people often wonder exactly what it is we do."
They don't supply Santa Claus suits. They don't sell Christmas tree light bulbs. And they don't serve as a telephone link to Saint Nick -- although they will, in a pinch.
Santa Inc. is a commercial Christmas decorating service. It operates out of three warehouses in an industrial compound in the North Point section of Baltimore County near Sparrows Point.
They put up some decorations at Halloween, and they supply tents and public address systems for outdoor promotions from spring to fall. But when the name of your company is Santa Inc., you can count on doing most of your work mid-November to mid-January.
The company installed decorations at 105 sites this Christmas season -- trees, pole decorations, wreaths, 4-foot-high letters that spell out a 40-foot-long "Season's Greetings," 6-foot-tall candy canes, 8-foot-high flying reindeer, and 15-foot-tall snowmen and Santa Clauses.
Santa Inc. suspended that giant snowman on cables at Owen Brown Shopping Center in Columbia. It set up the reindeer carousel
on the roof of the McDonald's in Montgomery County's Germantown.
The company started part-time out of Mr. Midwig's garage about 15 years ago. He and three buddies figured they'd make a little extra money around the holidays installing Christmas decorations. Mr. Midwig is the only one still with the company. He is president and
treasurer. Kathleen Carlile, the widow of one of the founders, is vice president and secretary.
Mr. Midwig recalls that they borrowed an extension ladder from Ms. Carlile's father to put up their first decorations. Now they own a truck with a 30-foot cherry picker and operate year-round with a staff of six in the off-season and 25 during the holidays.