The behind the scenes story of Upper West Side PHX and The Upper Westsider and how both work to keep you connected and informed
By Michelle Talsma Everson
Local residents Katie Roe and Natasha Beal have a lot in common. Both are female business owners, care about their community, are from the Midwest, and they each want to bring that midwestern feel to the Upper West Side. They’re each doing this in different ways that complement one another.
Katie Roe is the founder of Upper West Side PHX, which she describes as, “A grassroots community movement encouraging specialty shops and restaurants to open locations on the Upper West Side of the Phoenix metro area.” Between Facebook and Instagram, Upper West Side PHX has over 18,500 followers that are engaged members of the community and work to create change in the zip codes of 85383, 85382, 85083, 85310, 85308, and 85373.
“It [Upper West Side PHX] all started because I wanted a Postino Winecafe I could walk to,” Katie shares. “I posted on the Nextdoor app that I wanted more shopping and non-chain dining options in the area and, before I knew it, there were hundreds of comments from people who agreed.” This led Katie to establish the Upper West Side PHX Facebook page, which quickly became a forum for like-minded community members. The name is a catchy play on words of the high-end neighborhood in New York City and it quickly caught on.
Now, heading into her fourth year, Katie has the help of Kristi Hunter, a fellow local resident who serves as the organization’s community coordinator. Together, their focus for Upper West Side PHX is: advocate for the area; keep locals informed about what’s going on; and, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, encourage their followers to support local businesses.
“I was originally a volunteer ambassador before I was hired on,” Kristi explains. “I am a Phoenix and West Valley native, and I take pride in the Northwest Valley. I’ve lived in this area for 34 years; this is where my family is, and where my kids are growing up.”
Katie shares that she has lived in Arizona for 15 years and been an involved member of the Peoria community for seven years. When she moved into a new house in North Peoria, she was determined to get to know her neighbors. She worked as a personal trainer at Mountainside Fitness and quickly made friends with many of her clients that live in the area. This led Katie to join her HOA social and event planning committee, which then led to her being elected to the HOA board of directors. Through these activities, she learned more about Peoria, and became more engaged with her community.
In 2018, she began holding community meetings to get an understanding of what residents wanted to see come to the area as she launched Upper West Side PHX. She had no idea that Upper West Side PHX would ever become what it is today but believes that goes to show how engaged the community is. In 2019, Katie was named the Volunteer of the Year by the Peoria Chamber of Commerce. She has been invited to speak at many organizations in the West Valley about how to engage the community to create positive change.
In February 2018, Katie and Natasha, the owner and publisher at Eculeus Group Publishing, connected on social media. At the time, Katie asked Natasha if she would share the news about the then-new Upper West Side PHX organization in the Deer Valley Times.
“I saw that Upper West Side PHX had a large social media following, all of whom were heavily engaged, so with Katie’s support, I could expand our brand of hyper local community newspapers to the Upper West Side community. The newspaper was an additional way we could all work together to support the residents and business owners alike,” Natasha explains.
Natasha and her team launched The Upper Westsider in September 2019. Sticking with their model of “hyper-local,” Natasha’s team, along with the help of Katie, was able to narrow down their focus and direct mail to 20,000 homes in the 85383 zip code.
“While we may not be partners in business, we are each passionate about our partnership in supporting the community and hardworking businesses of Peoria’s Upper West Side,” Natasha says.
Katie and her team at Upper West Side PHX currently serve to advocate for positive changes for residents in six different zip codes. She, Kristi, and their team of volunteers can be found at city council meetings, city planning and zoning meetings, developer meetings, new restaurant openings, and most community gatherings. “Their strong belief in continuing to better an already amazing community is inspiring,” Natasha says.
Moving into a new year, the dynamic duo at Upper West Side PHX plan to not only continue their work to support local businesses, but also push to put North Peoria on the map as a viable option for expanding companies. This increased awareness not only continues to bring in a new caliber of businesses, but increases the local residents’ property values, making the area that much more appealing to old and new residents alike.
“2020 was all about supporting local since so many businesses were shut down or restricted due to COVID-19,” Katie says. “In 2021, we plan to continue that, but also want to work hard to promote this area as a great place for new businesses to open as residential development continues to grow rapidly.”
On a sunny December day at Paloma Community Park, Natasha, Brian, Katie, and Kristi all gathered to talk about their respective organizations’ future plans in support of the community. Moving forward together in the new year they plan to continue doing what they do best—providing ways for the local community to communicate and connect.