Galaxy is selling this puzzle for the holiday.

Galaxy Puzzles owner Janice Ungar creates high quality puzzles that allow families to come together during the holiday season while also reducing stress.

Photos courtesy of Janice Ungar

When I think of puzzles, I think of lots of plastic cups.

And I think of my grandfather.

My grandfather was a man who spent 54 years on the night shift as a photoengraver for the New York Daily News. Needing little sleep, he preferred working nights so he could spend the days with his family, especially his grandchildren.

From under the couch in my grandparent’s one-bedroom pre-war Brooklyn apartment, he’d pull out a puzzle he had just started on a sturdy wooden board and set it on the coffee table — and we got to work. We completed the border first and only then would we tackle the rest of the project by sorting the pieces into cups based on colors and patterns. My grandfather taught me that puzzles are a relaxing way to develop one’s patience while spending time with family. Along the way, I learned about faraway picturesque mountain ranges from some puzzles and species of birds and flowers from others.

The love of jigsaw puzzles continues into the next generations. Every year on our extended family visit to my in-laws in Florida, we spend most evenings hunched over a puzzle with thousands of pieces. My kids, nieces and nephews make it into a competition by each claiming their section. The marathon assembly sparks lots of giggles and conversation, and sometimes we break out into song, like the year we completed a Broadway-themed puzzle.

My family is not alone in our craze for puzzles. According to Market Watch, jigsaw puzzles sales in 2019 were $670 million.

Janice, Joel and Matthew Ungar at work on a puzzle

Janice Ungar of West Bloomfield was a school librarian before a layoff inspired her to start Galaxy, a puzzle sales business, in 2005. Ungar said that puzzles are a great, screen-free activity that reduces stress and encourages family bonding.

“When I was laid off as a school librarian, I found that doing puzzles took the edge off my stress,” Ungar said. “It was also a great way as a family to come together and talk about our day.”

Ungar said the bulk of her business comes from repeat customers who know she carries high-quality puzzles with content such as beautiful landscapes or famous artwork or elaborate and intricate scenes drawn by cartoon artists.

Galaxy offers the newest twists on puzzles, including those with holographic images or ones that are built in three dimensions.

Ungar’s latest offering in time for Chanukah is made of about 40 tiny wood laser-cut pieces, included those in the shape of a dreidel. The puzzle sells for $9.95 including shipping.

Other popular puzzles she sells include ones that display masterpieces from artists like Vincent Van Gough or kitschy ones like dogs playing poker. Ungar once sold a 3,000-piece puzzle of Jerusalem but said this puzzle no longer is in stock in high-enough quality to meet her standards.

Ungar said puzzles make great gifts for the family to work on as the Chanukah candles burn.

“My non-Jewish customers love doing puzzles as a family activity for Christmas and maybe it will catch on with my Jewish customers for Chanukah,” she said. “Doing puzzles as an activity never really went away, but it made a significant comeback 10 years ago, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.”

To order Galaxy puzzles, go to galaxypuzzles.com.

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