For Erika Zierke, being a resident of Englewood is about "taking care of each other."
The owner of the popular bar Englewood Grand, now a de facto community space, Zierke has made that statement a core mission of her life in Englewood for the past 13 years. She's led community events, served on city boards and was a business leader during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now she's been honored as Englewood's Citizen of the Year after city council members named her during an April 18 meeting.
“I am deeply honored and a little bit in shock, I just never expected a recognition like this," Zierke said.
Before becoming a business leader, Zierke worked as a political consultant and built out the outreach office for the Colorado Senate majority. She also worked as an advocacy coordinator for Children's Hospital.
After moving to Englewood in 2009, Zierke opened the Englewood Grand, a neighborhood bar on Broadway, in 2015. It quickly morphed into a beloved community hub, hosting everything from birthdays and engagement parties to weddings and memorials. Along the way, the bar has also partnered with the city on neighborhood trash cleanups and school fundraisers.
“All of the key moments in life that people want to celebrate, we’ve been able to participate in that," Zierke said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Zierke and her bar emerged as a community-leader. She said the bar shuttered its doors even before the state-wide stay-at-home order in an effort to get ahead of the virus' spread and protect people's health.
The bar closely followed COVID protocols, Zierke said, and sold t-shirts with the word "Love" to remind patrons that its closed doors were for the care of the community. When the warmer weather rolled in and outdoor activities became safer, Zierke helped lead the charge to establish open-container areas within the city as well as helped businesses secure more outdoor spaces for dining.
At the state level, Zierke advocated for lawmakers to extend to-go cocktails, a pandemic-era policy that kept many bars and restaurants afloat.
Englewood, being an open and caring community, Zierke said, never gave her the angered resistance other parts of the metro area and the country faced over COVID policies.
“I love this city so much," Zierke said.
Along with her leadership through Grand, Zierke helped launch the inaugural Englewood Block Party in 2017 as a way to showcase the city's vibrant business community and bring in local tourism.
And the event "gets better every single year,” said Zierke, who also served as the board president for the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the Englewood Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors.
Zierke was nominated for Citizen of the year by former Englewood mayor Linda Olson who called Zierke a "a role model that can make us proud as a community to say she’s one of us."
"Erika has not only given of her time, money and goods to improve our community, she has shared a listening ear to ensure diverse points of view are included," Olson said. "Her service and active concern for the common good of Englewood is a benchmark that I hope inspires us all."
But Zierke said nothing she has done has been "all on my own" and that all her work has been a collective investment from members of the community.
Zierke said she is optimistic for the future of Englewood as it continues to grow and become a more vibrant, energetic place to live.
“It’s a small town next to a big city, we have this sense of pride and love in Englewood," she said. "It has everything that you need.”
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