In the early 1970s, Gallagher became the first female to deliver papers for the Leader-Observer when she was just 13 years old, a gig she looks back on affectionately even today.
She made the connection through her mother, a Girl Scout troop leader who was actively involved in community affairs and heard that the paper was hiring new carriers. Gallagher’s mom was working hard as a single parent, so she and her two sisters all took jobs to help out.
“I would deliver all over Woodhaven, from 80th Street up to Park Lane and then over to 98th Street,” says Gallagher. “Everybody at the paper was so nice and the customers were lovely people, very welcoming and very open.”
She remembers customers would offer a cool glass of water or a hot chocolate when she knocked on the door to collect money for the deliveries.
Nobody pushed back against Gallagher getting the job, she says, but her presence at the newspaper was still shocking for the other carriers.
“I was the only girl,” she recalls. “We would all go in to pick up papers on Thursday and none of the boys would talk to me. I guess they felt I was infringing on their territory or something.”
Gallagher channeled the hesitance of her peers to interact into a laser-focus on the task at hand, leading to much success on the job. When the paper held a competition to see which carrier could sell the most subscriptions, Gallagher came out on top.
“All the boys would fight over who was going to win,” she explains. “I stayed quiet. I went out and I sold more subscriptions than any of them.”
At the end of the contest, Gallagher rode home on a brand new 10-speed bike, her prize for winning the contest. It was a men’s bike, and she struggled with its large frame, but that inconvenience did not deter her from feeling proud of the accomplishment.
According to Gallagher, working at the Leader-Observer was a point of inspiration for her future career as an entrepreneur. At 27, she opened her first business, a small sunglasses shop in a mall which later turned into a chain with 15 locations.
“I think the paper gave me a sense of independence,” Gallagher says. “I liked working for myself even at that age, and the job put the bug in me to continue doing so.”
Over the years, Gallagher has opened various other businesses as she followed wanderlust all over the country, including a coffee shop and an optical store. She currently lives in Massachusetts and operates an internet-based locksmith tool supplier called LockPickShop.
Gallagher still makes frequent trips to Woodhaven, where one of her sisters still lives, and on her visits she makes a point to pick up the Leader-Observer.
“I still read the paper,” she says happily. “I still know what goes on in the neighborhood. Woodhaven is home, and it’s important to me even today.”
Gallagher says that growing up, the pages of the Leader was where she found jobs, furniture for her first apartment and a spot to go for a haircut, touting the importance of local newspapers as both a wealth of information and a source of positivity for residents.
“You get a sense of community and a sense of what other people are doing,” she notes. “If you open a big paper all the stories are sensationalized and carrying bad news, but the Leader-Observer always has good news.”