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Nutcracker Sweet

Justin Timberlake, step aside! Teenage girls around town are totally crushed out on FAO Schwarz’s toy soldier.

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Pasha Gronim, a sprightly 17-year-old Berkeley-Carroll student, remembers the first time she saw him. It was over the summer, and she was meandering up Fifth Avenue with a friend. “We were bored and figured, Let’s go act stupid in FAO Schwarz,” she says. “And then we saw the toy-soldier doorman and we were, like, Oh, God, he’s really hot!”

They’re not alone. The toy soldier in question is Brad Coolidge, a 22-year-old aspiring actor who could pass for a more handsome Matt Damon. And as he has discovered, being a rouge-cheeked soldier in a felt stovetop hat goes over well with women. And girls who aren’t quite yet women.

“It’s sorta crazy,” Coolidge bashfully admits during a break. “Last year, I was invited to two proms—one in New Jersey, the other in Florida.” During busy days, he is slipped at least two phone numbers a shift. “I throw them all away,” he says.

Some youthful admirers, like Gronim, periodically swing by with friends to ogle him en masse—and to hear him read Thomas the Tank Engine during storytime. And then there are the more mature fans: “These two 40-year-old women invited me out to a bar the other day,” says Coolidge. “They kept saying they were ‘lots of fun.’ ”

Coolidge has to be careful when people ask to have their photo taken with him. “Women have tried to grab at my butt,” he says. “I try to keep it in the back of my mind. After all, this is a toy store.”

Coolidge’s supervisor, Chuck “The Toy Boy” Santoro, can relate—he, too, was once a toy soldier. “It’s a pretty wild job,” he says solemnly. “I was also asked to proms, but only in the tri-state area. Brad definitely has something special.”

For the record, though, Coolidge is not available. “Yeah, I’ve been seeing someone for just over a year,” he admits. “She worked here, too, as an elf.”


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