Bolivar Peninsula couple reuses found materials to create shore-themed ornaments
A.J. Reda and Melissa Salazar can reuse virtually everything they find. With shards of woods, strips of netting, random wine corks and shells from the beach, they have been able to create a line of nautical-themed holiday ornaments, signs and souvenirs from Galveston.
The couple, who moved to Bolivar Peninsula six years ago after their retirement from work at the refineries, say their crafty business is more of a hobby than an enterprise.
“This is just fun for us,” said Reda, a former carpenter who cuts the ornaments from balsa wood, Popsicle sticks, corks and other found materials. “We walk the beach a lot and find driftwood or other things, which we can use to create these ornaments. We use reclaimed, repurposed and recycled materials, which allows us to keep our prices down.”
The couple also has a food truck and a cleaning service on the peninsula, but they most enjoy Bolivar Bites, a stall at the Peanut Butter Warehouse on 20th Street and Harborside Drive in downtown Galveston, as well as their online market at bolivarbites.com.
They keep a small holiday tree in front of their stall year-round, loaded with the handmade ornaments and catchy phrases: “Jingle Shells;” “Have Yourself a Beachy Little Christmas;” “Be Shore of Yourself, Seas & Greetings;” “Gone to the Beach — Love Santa;” and “Holly Jolly” flip flops, tiny cork Christmas trees, Santas and more. They even hand-painted oyster shells from Crystal Beach with images of Santa Claus and made little sleds with wooden sticks. Small pieces of lumber remnants have been embellished and painted to resemble snowmen with funny hats.
Salazar, who originally is from Pasadena, is the “writer” and creates the crafty slogans while Reda cuts out the materials and does most of the painting.
Many of the ornaments sell for $3 each. When cruise ships were in port, their business was bustling. With suspension of U.S. cruises under pandemic precautions, they have seen a downturn but are optimistic about the future.
“We could sell them for much more; I’m sure we could triple the price, but that’s not what this is about,” Reda said. “We are having fun and want people to take a little bit of Galveston home with them.”