After moving to Platt Park at the age of 26, Georgia native Ryan Conover has become passionate about the neighborhood, the place he’s called home since 1998. After living in a community-driven neighborhood in the South, Conover said Denver was like recovering a piece of home.
“Most of my neighbors were in their 70s,” he said. “Everyone was so incredibly welcoming. I had grown up in a community in the South where there was a pool in the center and everyone gathered around and knew each other. I had missed that, but felt so at home here.”
Conover first moved to Denver hoping for a career in professional soccer after graduating from Clemson University in South Carolina with a degree in engineering. But an injury caused him to fall back on his degree as an engineer building Stapleton. But long hours and travel wore him out.
Unsure what to do next, he returned home to spend time with his grandfather, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Conover learned the value of giving back from his mother and grandfather, a former fighter pilot in World War II. Both his mother and grandfather were Realtors. Conover learned some business tricks from his grandfather, but he learned life lessons as well.
“I followed my grandpa around a lot and his handshake, his smile, his pat on the back, was the way he did business,” he said. “I learned that all people have is their trust in you.”
Upon his return to Denver, Conover decided to follow in the family footsteps and honor his entrepreneurial instincts by trying real estate in 2003. He now has an office at 1221 S. Clarkson St. in Washington Park West.
“The market had been super busy in Denver in the late ’90s. By the time I started it was calmer, but still before the recession,” he said. “You knew the people you were working with and I actually enjoyed that period. It’s harder now.”
Despite the ups and downs, Conover’s hard work paid off while his appreciation for the neighborhood where he lived, worked and played continued to grow. And by then it was time to follow his grandfather’s footsteps once again, this time by giving back.
“My grandfather had given a ton to the community, and so had my mom, so it’s part of what we do as a family,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to support the other small businesses I walk to and enjoy, and keep neighbors informed.”
Conover created “What’s Up in Platt Park” in 2016 to do just that, while also helping contribute to neighborhood schools. The organization promotes one local business a month and posts video interviews with local business people on its Facebook page.
For the past two Octobers, What’s Up has hosted a pumpkin patch with refreshments and fun activities for kids in Conover’s front yard to benefit Asbury Elementary School, raising more than $740 the first year and $2,100 the second. Conover said he would like to eventually expand into doing fundraising for other schools as well.
“The pumpkin patch has outgrown our location and we have a commitment from Asbury to hold it there next year with additional activities for kids like face painting,” he said. “Our goal is to eventually raise enough to pay for a para(professional) teacher salary.”
Through a food drive it has sponsored in May the past two years, What’s Up supports Asbury’s “Hands Up For the Children,” a local nonprofit that delivers backpacks of food to food-insecure children and their families every week. He is hoping to expand giving to this program as well by getting other local businesses and volunteers from the community involved. He’s hoping to annually fill the pantry so kids can have food during the school year.
“Last year their pantry was completely empty,” he said, “and we filled it to the brim with donations collected in bins in my front yard and outside my office.”
Conover and his wife, Christie, who are expecting their first child this month, hope to benefit soon even more directly from the schools they help support.
“I benefit so much from the shops, restaurants and schools that make Platt Park special that giving feels natural,” he said. “I hope word about what we’re doing just starts to snowball, and more and more people step up. What’s good for neighborhood businesses and schools is good for the whole community.”