Rockaway’s Craftiest: Meet Marybeth Galvin of Betsy’s Bungalow

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In this Rockaway Times series, we spotlight the eclectic band of crafty artists living on the peninsula. These individuals stand out not just because of their creativity and undisputable talent, but the oxygen fueling the passion behind their work—living and breathing in Rockaway. We hope this series gives readers the incentive to support these local artists, who invest their soul, time and energy in producing works of art that reflect what makes our peninsula an unparalleled place to call home.

Knock on wood—at any boardwalk fair or holiday market across the peninsula, you may have spotted a red-haired woman with piercing blue eyes and a generous smile vending her wood-crafted pieces. This is none other than born-and-raised local Marybeth Galvin of Betsy’s Bungalow. What spawned Galvin’s passion for craft-making with wood? Three things—the beach, her family and Dr. Seuss. In the following Q&A, learn about Galvin and her Rockaway-based business, Betsy’s Bungalow.

RT: What sparked the idea for Betsy’s Bungalow?

Galvin: I studied criminal justice at St. John’s University, and worked first as a paralegal, then at the District Attorney’s office. After a long day, I just wanted to go home and paint as an outlet for my anxiety and stress with work. So when I turned 30, I said to myself, “Why not give my passion to create art a shot.” I realized that I was no longer the person I was when I was 20. My father, Dr. Peter Galvin, besides being known as the chief medical officer at the now-closed Peninsula Hospital, is also a carpenter. So working alongside him, I learned a lot. Also, my mom is very crafty and comes up with a lot of ideas. After a friend encouraged me to participate in my first vendor’s market, I got the confidence that—yes, I can make Betsy’s Bungalow my full-time vocation, and I haven’t turned back since.

RT: And the inspiration behind the name, “Betsy’s Bungalow?”

Galvin: Betsy is my childhood nickname. The Galvin name is pretty known in the community, so I wanted to start my own business without people automatically associating it with being a Galvin thing, especially since my dad does his own woodwork.

RT: Your pieces are wonderfully crafted. Do you have any formal training?

Galvin: No, I just always loved painting as an outlet. My woodwork training just comes from observing my dad for years. He cuts the wood for all of my pieces. This is why every piece from Betsy’s Bungalow is truly handcrafted. This is a craft that takes time to perfect, and I am still learning. Just within the past three years, with hard work and dedication, I have definitely seen how my products have evolved.

RT: The bulk of your pieces truly reflect Rockaway. How do you get your ideas?

Galvin: From the subway and street signs to the Christmas globe with Rockaway sand and a piece of the original boardwalk, I try to create Rockaway-themed pieces that the whole neighborhood would appreciate, not just residents, but also businesses. Living on the beach is a big inspiration.

RT: Do you just do wood work?

Galvin: I have started branching out into glasses and vinyl. However, handcrafted wood pieces are what Betsy’s Bungalow is known for.

RT: What are your big sellers?

Galvin: Hands down the subway signs and magnet bottle openers. It’s really gratifying to have businesses and residents showcasing Betsy’s Bungalow pieces. It encourages me to keep doing what I love. People also order custom pieces like window shutters and corn hole sets. We just make sure we make quality pieces that will last.

RT: In the past year, you organized a lot of the local markets, how did that come about?

Galvin: I did that not just to help grow my business, but to encourage other businesses and help them grow. It’s just me paying it forward to other artists starting out.

RT: You actually have a Fall Market coming up that’s going to be hosted in your own art space. What inspired you to welcome the community in your own space?

Galvin: My father built my “she-shed” from the ground up, and I want to welcome the community to a space that gave me a lot of inspiration. I love working here and I’m excited for people to come and experience Rockaway’s creativity.

RT: You mentioned that Dr. Seuss is one of your biggest idols? Why?

Galvin: Through his books, he encouraged children to be themselves, not change themselves. I make wood signs with his quotes. One of my favorites is “Be who you are. Say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” And that’s something I live by, not just as an artist, but as an individual.

RT: Last question. What’s your street cred for being a Rockaway local?

Galvin: It’s so funny when people ask me if I’m a local. My response is “are you a local?” I was born and raised in Rockaway. For elementary school, I attended St. Francis de Sales. Stella Maris for high school and even attended Beach Channel for a while. My father was born and raised on the block we live on. At one time, we had four generations living on the same block. So yeah, you don’t get more local than me.

RT: How would you brand Betsy’s Bungalow?

Galvin: Handmade and 100% local.

On Sunday, October 6, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Betsy’s Bungalow presents the Bungalow Fall Market, located at 120-05 Newport Avenue. Vendors participating include: Betsy’s Bungalow, Rockaway Candle Co., Handmade Cocoon, Swellife, Wilderness Yard, Far Rock Shop, Elsie’s, Fat Cardinal, Geoffiti, House of Agard, Sweet Scrubs and much more! For info, visit Betsy’s Bungalow on Instagram or Facebook.

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