Serving Trackside
By Sheridan Smith

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

Natania “Nicole” Rison is a single mother who works as a server at Trackside Restaurant in Paris. 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 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 eventually got her own place, where she lives now with her sons and half-brother, Jerry Dorsey, who moved to Paris from Tuscon, Arizona, to work and share bills with Nicole.

“I’m in Kentucky for my sister because, at the end of the day, I’m helping my family,” Jerry says.
Nicole got Jerry a job at Trackside in July, 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 owner Chris Poynter, who has won awards for restoration projects across town.

During its renovation, 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 endurance and tenacity to her mom.

Nicole’s mom, Donna Holman, was diagnosed with degenerative disk 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.

Nicole grew up with childhood friend Terry Dumphord, 44, 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.”
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 integrity, performance, and love.

Nicole playfully flips off Jerry in the passenger seat as he rushes her to drive him to work at Trackside.

Nicole sits with her mother, Donna Holman, at her home in Paris. Donna spent her career sewing for Speedo and working as a cleaner at noteworthy spots such as the mayor’s office in Lexington until she developed back problems and was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease in 2021. Nicole visits her mother whenever she can.

Nicole Rison, mother of three, takes a breath before work while her dog, Oreo, watches. Most days, she works until closing.

Reese Michael (from left), Niesha Downey, and Nicole take a break from serving at Trackside. They lean on each other as teammates, with a generous dose of humor.

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

Nicole clarifies an order with another server from the kitchen as she helps get their tickets out during a rush. "When you see Nicole in the kitchen, that's when you know we're busy," says Jerry, Nicole's half-brother and coworker.

Nearing the end of her shift, Nicole clears a table before heading home to play chess, spades, or dominoes with family and friends to wind down, go to bed and do it all again the next day.