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Daily Pilot

Carrying the mail to Santa

Stores will post children's letters to St. Nick and make sure that the jolly old elf answers them.

By Britney Barnes

8:02 PM PST, November 23, 2012

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A chain of family-run hardware stores that started in Corona del Mar is offering to mail letters to Santa Claus' workshop in the North Pole — and the Big Guy will write back.

Families can drop off their letters at Crown Ace Hardware until Christmas Eve. Santa has promised to write back to any child whose letter is dropped off by Dec. 5. To receive an answer, letters must include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

"As a family-run business, we hope to treat our customers as family," Crown Ace Hardware President Mark Schulein said in a prepared statement. "This is just one way we hope to provide something enjoyable and fun for the kids."

Schulein started the hardware store, then Crown Hardware, in Corona del Mar in 1974. While still family-owned, the company has grown to include 15 stores in Southern California and two in Arizona. The company partnered with Ace Hardware in the 1980s.

All of its 10 Orange County stores have holiday-themed mailboxes ready to accept letters. No stamps are needed.

"The holidays are a special time when we can all be kids at heart. And this is our chance to connect with our local residents and give back," Schulein said.

Letters can be dropped off at:

• 3107 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call (949) 673-2800.

2666 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Call (714) 546-7080.

5705 Alton Parkway, Irvine. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Call (949) 654-0611.

18102 Culver Drive, Irvine, CA 92612. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Call (949) 786-8100.

There are also locations in Huntington Beach, Anaheim Hills, Laguna Niguel and Lake Forest. For additional addresses, store hours and phone numbers, visit http://www.crownace.com.

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes