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Serving Trackside

By Sheridan Smith
November 1st, 2023

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Nicole Rison, 41, waves to her neighbor on David's Court while her friend and half-brother, Jerry Dorsey, 42, follow. Most days, Nicole drives Jerry to Trackside Restaurant, where they both work.


Natania “Nicole” Rison is a single mother and a server at Trackside Restaurant in Paris, Kentucky. In addition to the 45 hours per week she spends at work, Nicole parents her three children, takes care of her mother and supports her community.


 “Love is what I have with my family and friends," Nicole says. "They love me in the same way I love them, and I tell them every day that I do. We don’t know when our last day is on this Earth, so it’s important to show the love we have.”


After splitting with her children’s father, Nicole moved into her own place, where she lives now with her sons and half-brother, Jerry Dorsey, who moved to Paris from Tucson, Arizona to share bills and work at Trackside with Nicole.

In July, Nicole secured Jerry a job at Trackside, and they've been tag-teaming ever since.

The Paris train depot, built in 1882, was renovated in 2018 when Dottie Spears committed to starting Trackside Restaurant over dinner with property owners Darrel, Debra and Chris Poynter, who have won awards for restoration projects across town.


While renovating, Dottie knew Trackside would become a staple in the community and was confident in her decision to hire Nicole.


“Nicole is very well-respected around here,” Dottie says. “She can serve, cook, and do anything you need in a restaurant – she’ll even give up her tips to make sure the kitchen gets their tickets out. She wants people to walk away with a memory.”


Nicole has been the backbone of the restaurant for four years and credits her tenacity to her mother and to her friends.

Nicole’s mom, Donna Holman, was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in 2021. After a related surgery, Donna fell and was paralyzed from the waist down. However, as of one year ago, she has been able to walk again with assistance. Nicole visits her mother and supports the people she loves whenever she can.

"I guess I am the man to do something better."

Nicole grew up with childhood friend Terry Dumphord on 7th Street in Paris, on the corner where her uncle’s shop, Eddie B’s, used to be. Now, the space belongs to Terry, who turned it into The Voyage Movement, a nonprofit, multipurpose center that provides Paris youth with mentorship, tutoring and free meals.


“I wasn’t always the community activist; I used to be the problem child on this corner,” Terry says, “But now, here I am – I guess I am the man to do something better.”


After Terry served time in federal prison, he moved back to his hometown, dedicated to making a positive change in his community. 


“Prison can change a person,” Nicole says. “For Terry, it changed him for the better.”

The tattoo behind Nicole's ear was done by her friend, Kenzie. Although Nicole often forgets about her tattoo, anyone who knows Nicole recognizes it as a symbol of her character.

After work, Nicole typically heads home to spend time with her children, or to play chess, spades or dominoes with friends, until going to bed and doing it all again the next day.


From caring for her family, to feeding the people of Paris, to supporting her life-long friendships, Nicole is a lighthouse in her community and a symbol of her core values: integrity, performance, and love.

Nicole heads to a table before closing out her shift at Trackside Restaurant and Bourbon Bar, while Secretariat, the fastest racehorse in American history, is celebrated in hometown of Paris, Kentucky. 


Produced at Kentucky Mountain Workshop. Click here to view publication.

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