BOULDER, Colo. — “This could be emotional today, but it’s okay to cry. We’re here together. We’re here to support the South Side community.”
It is Thursday, April 1, and Dana Derichsweiler is in a football-like huddle with her team at the Walnut Café's South Side location on South Broadway in Boulder.
Derichsweiler is the owner of the café, a popular neighborhood breakfast and lunch joint with two locations.
The last year has been a hard one for Derichsweiler and her employees. The South Side location was temporarily closed twice, the most recent time being from November 2020 to April 1, 2021. And the cafe’s Lafayette location permanently shut down. But after being closed since November 2020 due to the pandemic, their South Side café is reopening.
They stand shoulder to shoulder, each wearing a shirt with the phrase “Boulder Strong” across the chest, about 50 yards from the King Soopers where a gunman opened fire and killed 10 people on March 22.
South Side Walnut Cafe Grand Reopening
Boulder's South Side Walnut Café reopened
“I thought to myself, ‘Gosh, will 2020 ever end?’” Derichsweiler said, recalling her immediate reaction to the tragedy.
The South Side location was closed the day of the shooting, but the devastation to her community didn’t change Derichsweiler’s plans to reopen on April 1.
“Restaurants are like a real gathering place,” she said, “and I think even though the timing is such as it is, it couldn't be better because we really need a place to gather, to come together, to grieve. And that’s what we do.”
Dawn Cerrone chose to dine outside at the South Side location the day the café reopened.
“For me to see [Derichsweiler] be able to open this back up, means that kindness, love—the things that should matter, matter,” a visibly emotional Cerrone said. “It’s heartwarming to know that we can win, that hate doesn’t have a place here. And I love that.”
Another diner told Rocky Mountain PBS that being able to eat at the Walnut Café gave them a sense of normalcy that has eluded them in recent months, especially after the shooting.
Carrone added: “To be able to go through what we went through last week and then to turn around and be able to do this today, I think speaks volumes to who, as a community, we are, and who Dana really embodies and embraces.”
Even while the South Side location was closed, Derichsweiler felt the support of the community. People donated money that she used to help pay for the rent, utilities, doctor appointments, internet, schooling, and more for employees who had to be laid off. Before the pandemic, Walnut Café employed 94 people across all of its locations. Now, it has 40 people on staff, with more hires expected as business picks back up.
Derichsweiler said after the shooting, the café provided 100 meals to the family and friends of Boulder PD Officer Eric Talley following Talley’s memorial. He was the first officer on scene at the King Soopers, and was killed in the attack.
Derichsweiler said the stress of the last year, and especially the stress and grief caused by the shooting, can lead to a feeling of paralysis, like you don’t even know what to do next.
The solution to that problem, she explained, is to find out what the “next, right thing” is to do. For her and her staff, the right thing to do was getting their doors open for the community.
“We can’t be okay with the tragedy of what happened,” Carrone said, “but we can be okay with coming together, coming to a restaurant, and not allowing fear to win.”