Public Relations Alumna Finds Her Niche in York Community
Kristen (Evans) Dempwolf ’13 has worked in a variety of roles—from nonprofit communications to most recently helping a growing pretzel bakery expand national sales. All of it has given her a deeper appreciation for her community.
Kristen (Evans) Dempwolf ’13 has always taken a creative approach to problem-solving. She thought that would lead her into a life in a newsroom, likely editing video for news stations, until she took a public relations course at York College of Pennsylvania.
“A lot of my professors saw my interest in communications, but they showed me the possibility of public relations as advocacy work,” Dempwolf says. “My professors really had the most profound impact on showing me how I could do what I was passionate about.”
She even considered one of her professors to be like family: the late Dr. Robert Carroll, who taught a Public Relations course. She remembers him introducing her to leadership opportunities with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and even inviting students to his home.
When Dempwolf helped organize the Kicking Cancer kickball fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society her junior year, a lightbulb went off, and she fell in love with event planning.
“There were all of these opportunities for me to see how a career in public relations could encompass a lot of exciting things,” Dempwolf says. “I had some great mentors and learning experiences at York College that led me to that.”
Helping York grow
After graduation, Dempwolf worked for the American Cancer Society and was a Relay for Life specialist in southern New Jersey. When an opportunity opened in York County, she returned to her hometown and eventually found herself at Downtown Inc, a nonprofit that supports businesses in downtown York.
She started in a part-time role as the Events and Marketing Coordinator before the position eventually became full-time. She was instrumental in building First Fridays, once-a-month events that welcome visitors to engage with downtown businesses, street vendors, and a variety of activities.
Dempwolf also helped launch and grow Sweetest Pint, a craft beer sampling tour, and Go Green in the City, a family-friendly Earth Day festival. Through this work, she built a list of local connections and was inspired at the idea of an event that focused solely on the vendors that often made these events so successful.
“No one was really touting the makers, the people who were running these small or even micro-businesses,” she says. “These people always brought an added value to an existing event, but there wasn’t anything that said, ‘This event is about you and what you do.’ ”
When Dempwolf ran her first York Flea event on Clarke Avenue between Beaver and Pershing streets in October 2015, she and 10 vendors gathered in the pouring rain to sell everything from vintage clothing to handcrafted soaps, candles, and décor.
In 2021 alone, more than 100 micro-businesses participated in York Flea, which hosted multiple open-air and indoor events throughout downtown and beyond.
“The main goal for me is creating space for these businesses to thrive,” Dempwolf says. “Many of these vendors have the goal to someday own a storefront or a thriving e-commerce business. We have so many stories of local businesses with brick and mortars or a big online following, and it started right here at York Flea.”
‘A strong foundation’
Today, Dempwolf is the full-time Chief Marketing Officer for The Pretzel Company, which ships pretzels to the 48 continental states. Her love for local businesses not only allowed her to support several through York Flea but also to focus on growing startups, like The Pretzel Company.
“York College prepared me for all of these roles by giving me a strong foundation,” she says. “It also made me passionate about my community, and I’m really grateful for that.”