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Betsy Sheahan

Who would have thought? Sometimes life takes some unexpected turns and you just never know how your past will give you the tools to succeed in an unexpected future. Such is the case with Betsy Sheahan, proprietor of the iconic Betsy’s Bar in Frenchtown.

Growing up in Wisconsin in a family of pig farmers, owning a bar on a little Caribbean island never entered Betsy’s mind. After graduating from University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse with a degree in special needs education, Betsy spent some time in Colorado, where she got her first taste of the bar and restaurant business. Eager for an adventure, Betsy and two girlfriends planned a working visit with their friend Cindy Kennedy on St. Thomas. By the time the trip came up, both friends had fallen in love and opted not to go.
Having already given up her apartment, Betsy decided to head for the islands for a season on her own.
The rest, as they say, is history. That short stay in 1984 turned into a permanent move. In her ten years working at the old Normandie Bar in Frenchtown, Betsy steadily accumulated a large group of loyal customers. After another three years behind the bar at Tickles Dockside Pub, she started looking towards the future. “I read something written by a famous guru about seven things you need to do to succeed.” She said. “One of those things was to find something you enjoy doing and are good at, and I felt I’d found that. I knew I wanted to stay behind the bar but I was worried about not being marketable in the years ahead,” she said.

A small courtyard bar behind the Pony Parlor in Frenchtown came available and Betsy’s Bar was born. For the next twelve years, Betsy instilled her warm and generous spirit into what became known as the “Friendliest Little Bar in Frenchtown.” Considered a second home for an ever-growing Betsy’s family, it has been the site for countless birthdays, weddings celebrations, memorials, baby showers, organizational meetings, Easter and Thanksgiving potlucks, charity fundraisers and more, and is firmly entrenched as a vital member of the Frenchtown community. Two years ago, a short closure and a move to her present location just next door allowed Betsy to expand her horizons with a much larger, newer space.
Coincidentally, the new Betsy’s Bar is on the exact site of the Normandie Bar, where it all began. “It felt like a full circle coming back to my original home. I’m just really grateful to have my little family together,” she said.

Experience behind the bar is certainly an integral part of her success; however, it is Betsy’s totally unrelated experiences that have served her best. Who knew that the practicality and down-to-earth attitude she grew up with in farm country would enable her to maintain and grow her business here in the Virgin Islands? Who would have thought that the training, patience and sensitivity necessary to relate to special needs children would allow her to relate so well to her customers and make them feel so welcome?

Who would have thought, indeed…?