David Franklin

Christmas entrepreneur

How did you get started selling Christmas wrapping paper on the side of Maynardville Highway?

I did a job for a company and ended up with about 3,700 rolls of Christmas paper, so when I'm not working [as a mechanic] I set up out here in my Santa outfit. I wave at all the kids, and I sell a few rolls here, a few rolls there. It's 50 cents a roll, and no one else has it for that price. It adds a little extra money for Christmas. I love playing Santa Claus. It tickles the kids and I get a kick out of it myself.

Where did you get the outfit?

At Party City. I paid $70 for it. My wife's making a full-length jacket right now. I usually start letting my beard grow out about September. This year I'm not going to cut it. I'm going to let it grow long for next Christmas. It's usually white by now, but I haven't made it to Sally's [beauty supply store]. Next year, I'll dye it white about every three months.

Do you use the Santa outfit anywhere else, or is this your only gig?

My mother was a volunteer for 30 years with FOP [Fraternal Order of Police], and I started working with them about eight years ago, but three years ago they closed the toy store down and everybody went to Shop with a Cop. Now I visit children and I visit different people's houses. There are some people with Down Syndrome I visit every year. I do a few families. I also use my part as Santa Claus to tell children about Jesus. I always remind them there's a reason for the season.

Have you made any memorable Santa appearances over the years?

I had the best time I ever had in the Santa outfit last year. I was in a nearby neighborhood, and a lady saw me and asked me if I would go visit some children she knew up the hill. She told me their names and where they lived, so I went up to their house and rang the doorbell. The parents had no idea I was coming or who I was, but they let me in and I talked to the kids, and I knew the kids' names. It tore the parents up. They had no idea.