Krista Simonson is quick to give her husband David credit for the amazing Facebook communities she has helped create. “Without his encouragement and hard work, I don’t think I would have been able to make these groups the community touchpoints they are.”

This week we’re excited to feature Krista, the creator and moderator of South Denver Food & South Denver Strong. These two Facebook groups promote community by encouraging Denver South residents to share their favorite local establishments to patronize.  We sat down with Krista at 303 Coffee to learn more about her and the online communities she created.

What motivated you to start these communities?

My “aha” moment came when I realized that this was a great way to support local restaurants and share what I was doing with my Facebook community during the pandemic. My goal for the groups has always been to promote positive experiences that our neighbors and friends are having.

I was somewhat surprised by how quickly they took off and how much growth we have seen. Initially, our growth was organic, as the community sought to support local businesses impacted by the pandemic. But people needed community and we’ve seen a lot of connections built that have resonated through the community. These personal connections have really taken our online communities to a new level. Additionally I know that—from the beginning—the positivity we focus on has helped people connect and see the good around them.

With all the time you spend online – how do you moderate these groups?

The groups have established rules such as no negative comments, no spam, and no GoFundMe promotions. Our aim is to create a safe and positive environment that aligns with the vision of supporting the community. I don’t allow negative comments or reviews that could harm anyone. Our groups are opportunities to create a sense of community, particularly in the Denver South area. The groups facilitate connections between individuals and promote restaurants that contribute to the community.

What’s the focus of these groups, and what happens when there isn’t that positive experience?

It started about our local restaurant industry. We need to remember that our main focus is on fostering a sense of community and supporting the industry, rather than acting as a food critic platform.

When contributors encounter issues with food or service, I encourage members to address them politely with the owner or manager and not call them out online.

We are always on the lookout for new places to try and to share with our readers.  Can you give us a few of the restaurants that are high on your list?

I have so many places I’ve visited and connected with in the past year! I don’t really have a favorite, but here are a few that stand out. I’d encourage all the readers of this blog and the Denver South community to visit and give them your support.

  • West Main Taproom, Parker – another restaurant that got creative during the pandemic and has kept creating ways to show their clientele how important they are to the restaurant. When a restaurant has this kind of service mentality, I just want to root them on.
  • Cranelli’s Italian Restaurant, Lone Tree – during the pandemic they excelled at creating new ways to keep their quality high and to pioneer new ways of serving their customers. They even expanded, which is awesome!
  • Ana’s Norwegian Bakeri, Centennial – a Norwegian inspired bakery that is now expanding into more locations. They’re another great example of creativity and customer service.
  • Urban Village Grill, Lone Tree – One of our region’s first restaurants to be featured in 5280 magazine. They expanded during the pandemic into their current Park Meadows location, and work in a lot of really creative ways as a resource to their staff and others at Park Meadows while delivering an amazing, high-quality experience for their customers.
  • HiLo Eatery, Ken Caryl – a bit outside of Denver South. It has an out of the box and creative approach to service and the quality for the food they serve. Throughout Covid they knew the value of quality and their commitment to their staff and the community, and I think they excel as a result.

Krista and the online community she helped create are building the amazing grassroots that truly make Denver South an amazing community. We’re also hungry now and can’t wait to try Krista’s suggestions! What are some of your favorite businesses to patronize in Denver South? Let us know!