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Left Hand Laurel Alison Steele

Busy is certainly one way to describe Alison Steele, this week's recipient of the Left Hand Laurel award.

The mother of a 16-month-old little girl named Elizabeth, who often comes to work with her mother, Alison, 42, is also co-owner, with her father and brother, of the Niwot Market.

Alison Steele runs the grocery department doing all the ordering, stocking the shelves, working with distributors, unloading the trucks and "doing all the financials," as she puts it. The market at Cottonwood Square is a hub of civic life, and this summer there are Friday night dinners cooked by her brother, and classic car shows every Friday evening.

Her volunteer efforts for the Niwot Business Association (NBA) include recruiting volunteers for Rock & Rails and many other events in Niwot, including the Niwot Downhill Mile on the 4th of July. She also cooperates with other local business leaders in planning events such as Octoberfest, to be held in the fall.

And if this wasn't enough to keep a new mom busy, she runs marathons – many of them.

"I ran the BolderBoulder 26 times," Steele said nonchalantly. "I ran the Boston Marathon three times and the New York Marathon three times and the Chicago marathon seven times. I guess in all I've run 18 marathons."

Alison, whose twin sister is five minutes older than she is, was born and raised in a family of four children in Fort Collins, where the Steeles owned a market. "I went to CU Boulder majoring in business," she said "thinking I would work in the family business."

At one point, her family owned six Colorado grocery stores – three in Fort Collins and one each in Windsor, Fort Morgan and Niwot. As Fort Collins grew and changed, however, the city imposed a road closure for six months in front of one of their stores and within a short while, that business had gone into bankruptcy.

"After we lost the store, " she continued, "I went back to graduate school at CU in Boulder and taught fifth grade in Fort Collins from 2007 to 2012."

Undaunted by the negative turn of events, her father, Bert Steele, purchased the Niwot Market out of bankruptcy 21 years ago, and made it into an iconic center of community life in Niwot. Alison recalled, "When that happened 21 years ago, I decided to quit my career as a fifth-grade teacher and come to Niwot and work full-time with my Dad, Bert, and my oldest brother, Seth."

Ironically, she gave birth to her child the same day as one of her sisters, and it was also the same day as their grandmother's birthday.

Her husband Peter Kraft, whom she met "through friends" is an executive at a company called Xylem. He is from Portland, Maine, and expects to run the 10k "Beach to Beacon" race in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, in early August.

Despite what sounds like an exhausting work and exercise schedule, Alison Steele notes that for her and Kraft, "family comes first." Her mother helps her with child care and frequently, baby Elizabeth is being cared for at the market by her grandmother while her mother, Uncle Seth and grandfather Bert are busy at work.

She said she started volunteering at NBA events around the time "the volunteer coordinator had moved" and she took on the job of recruiting volunteers for Rock & Rails and other events. Steele explained the job was "easy, because the market is such a hub and I know so many people."

At the Niwot Business Association, "We helped each other advertise, bring in speakers and continue our businesses during Covid. We sent out email lists and talked to people looking for volunteer help."

"I love Niwot," she concluded. "It's so special to know everybody, to talk to them and to know their families, a very special place. And I love having Elizabeth here. People lean over and say, 'Hi Elizabeth.' It's just really nice to know other people and see people wave to each other walking out the door."


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