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Chilling With Birmingham’s Cool Santa

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Antonio Boswell, a professional photographer, used time afforded by COVID in March 2020 to develop out his Cool Santa brand, attire, marketing plan and appearances. (PROVIDED)
By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson
The Birmingham Times

Antonio Boswell, professional photographer of A. Boswell Media Services, has an alter ego that’s popular this time of year: He’s Cool Santa.

Boswell said the concept came about as he was trying to help a fellow business owner and friend during one of their slowest seasons – during the holidays.

“We were sitting in my studio and told her, ‘why don’t you find a Santa and do a tour?” he recalled. “And I’m not thinking she was going to ask me to be the Santa. I was just coming up with ideas.”

He teamed up with Comedienne Joy, of the Eat Drink Ride party bus tour in 2019 and said the 10 adults who were on that bus loved it. He opted for non-traditional attire, which included “a red blazer, black slacks and a white shirt … a Santa hat and mirrored aviator shades.”

“When they stepped on that bus and saw me, they loved it. They were asking, ‘Where did you find the ‘Cool Santa’?”

“Every restaurant we went into, everyone who was dining would say – I’ve never seen a Santa like you. You are the coolest Santa I’ve seen.”

Developing the Brand

He used time afforded by COVID in March 2020 to develop out his Cool Santa brand, attire, marketing plan and appearances. Boswell even used his down time to write a book that year entitled “Cool Santa: It’s Cool to be Kind” which is now available on Amazon.

He even had his brand trademarked.

“No one was taking pictures (in 2020), no one was coming into the studio, so I really had time to work on developing my Cool Santa brand,” he said.

The following year in 2021, Boswell continued to make appearances on local media, at schools and events and the calls kept coming with local media personalities encouraging him to continue on with his new persona.

And this year, four years after it all began, he not only has a book available, but he also debuted merchandise including mugs, t-shirts and a Christmas ornament featuring Cool Santa’s image.

Boswell says it was so popular, the ornament sold out in a few hours after being made available at the end of November. He made 12 ornaments this year to “test the waters, so to speak” but said more are coming in 2024.

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Cool Santa and MAX Transit

One repeat customer is the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA). As a photographer, Boswell has taken images of staff for years and with Cool Santa, their professional relationship has expanded.

“He has worked with us for several years during the holiday season,” said Sam South, Director of Communications for BJCTA. “It started with him volunteering. He would come and dress as Cool Santa and would ride along for the Salvation Army pickup day.”

That pickup day is December 1, when a MAX bus goes out and picks up gifts that people and corporate partners have donated to the Salvation Army.  Those gifts are then taken to the Salvation Army holiday warehouse.

“We’re proud each and every year to work with him and have him partner with BJCTA and with the Salvation Army,” said South.

Cool To Read

And while his Santa imagery promotes kindness, community service and good-natured fun, another one of the major tenets of Cool Santa’s platform is reading and literacy. When he visits schools, he allows each student to join the Cool Santa Cool Kids ABC Choir.

“I really don’t ask them what they want for Christmas, we talk about reading and we do our ABC’s,” said Boswell.

Cool Santa literally stands at the front of the class and leads students in singing their ABC’s during his visit. He says it’s a gesture he hopes extends beyond the classroom.

“I think it’s good to attach the character of the traditional Santa with the Cool Santa, making it cool to read and to read to your kids.”

And even though Cool Santa has no more time available for appearances or photographs this year, Boswell says he’s already planning for 2024.

For more information on his events, photograph sessions or school visits, you can go to his website at https://www.therealcoolsanta.com.  

To purchase the book Cool Santa: It’s Cool to be Kind on Amazon, visit https://www.amazon.com/Cool-Santa-Its-Kind/dp/0578831449

For more information on A. Boswell Media Services, visit www.aboswellmedia.com.