Serving Jonesborough: From Nurse to Bistro Owner

Graduation season approaches, and students anticipate potential careers. Prospective alumni scramble for final letters of recommendation in hopes of embarking on entry-level employment, but are professions finalized once one launches a career?

Not for 37-year-old former registered nurse Kinsey Holliday.

Originally from Texas, Holliday, along with her parents and sister, moved to Virginia when she was 8 years old. As a child, she observed her parents, who were both healthcare professionals and “very hardworking while [she] was growing up.”

Middle school and high school days dwindled, and Holliday evolved into a nursing student at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon, Virginia, where she pursued and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She quickly found a job after graduation and began her career as a healthcare professional.

“I worked as a registered nurse for about four years,” said Holliday. “[Eventually,] I just got so tired of it. Nursing is just really depressing— you’re constantly around sadness, and I wanted to do something that makes people happy.”

Holliday neared her fourth year working as a registered nurse when she and her husband, Mo Farrouki, a businessman, answered a phone call that altered Holliday’s professional life.

“We got a call that a building was vacant,” said Holliday. “Our friend in Jonesborough told us to come check it out, and we got a really good deal on it. It was meant to be.”

The couple transformed the vacant building into The Black Olive, an Italian restaurant that Holliday co-operates with Farrouki, who owns another Italian restaurant, Primos, in Elizabethton.

Holliday resigned her healthcare career to tend to people in a way she would enjoy. Although she loved nursing, she needed “something different and some positivity.”

“[When you’re a nurse,] you’re serving the patients and get them everything they need,” said Holliday. “[The restaurant industry] is sort of parallel to that.”

Operating The Black Olive entails responsibilities after the dinner rush, but Holliday remains occupied past closing hours. She raises four children— one of whom is younger than a year old.

Holliday trusts the employees on days or nights she cannot be present. She holds the team to high standards “after seeing how well they work together and solve conflict.”

“It can be very stressful at times dealing with taking care of the children and all of their activities and running the restaurant,” said Holliday, “but luckily I have such a wonderful staff and help that they make it so much easier for me.”

The Black Olive marked its third year in August and commemorated several workers’ third year. According to employees, celebrations are not foreign to the Italian restaurant’s tight-knit workforce.

“An employee left after enlisting in the U.S. Army, and another moved away for college,” said Brandon Ingram, a veteran server at The Black Olive. “Kinsey threw both of them a big going-away party. It’s obvious she truly cares about her employees.”

Holliday not only caters to her customers and employees. She reciprocates to her community by supporting surrounding high schools.

“Kinsey has always been good about doing sponsorships and fundraisers within the community,” said Ingram. “I know she always gives away gift certificates to students or teams at David Crockett High School.”

A former employee, Kalliope Strapp, remembered all the donations to school soccer teams and a “large contribution to [an employee] who recently got diagnosed with cancer.”

“Every few months, Kinsey even hires actresses to show up as Disney princesses,” said Strapp. “Kinsey is an excellent boss.”

Holliday’s previous experience in healthcare enables her to go above-and-beyond in a different line of work. Employees recognize the caring qualities Holliday embodies through everyday interactions, whether it be in the workplace or on an outing with her employees.

“She’s taken us out to eat a multiple amount of times,” said Ian Messer, a host and server working toward his second year at The Black Olive. “And whenever she stops by the restaurant on days off to fill out paperwork or check on customers, she also takes the time to talk to [the employees] to see that the shift is running smoothly.”

With her active roles in the workplace, the household and the community, Holliday attributes her work ethic and motivation to her husband, who began to work when he was 7 years old.

The Black Olive is not strictly Italian; the restaurant hosts Moroccan-themed nights when customers relish dishes that Moroccan-born Farrouki prepares.

“Some of the most memorable experiences at The Black Olive are the Moroccan nights,” said Holliday. “It is very cool to hear the feedback and see how much everyone enjoys the food from his culture and background. We even have belly-dancers and Moroccan music for added excitement!”

Disney princesses and Moroccan nights at The Black Olive attract more customers, but Holliday foresees further amendments to adjust to the rising business. She and her husband consider new ideas and formulate plans to satisfy both regular and new customers.

“I see The Black Olive continuing to grow and flourish,” said Holliday. “We have plans to enclose the patio for winter months.”

Holliday never envisions herself returning to a career within healthcare, but she envisions tackling different challenges.

“I’d like to take some business courses,” said Holliday. “Maybe try different types of businesses and open them up.”

Despite devising goals for the future and taking on challenges to achieve these goals, Holliday focuses on present-day events and short-term goals while remaining receptive to what lies ahead.

Holliday found a passion in a profession that seemingly differs from her original work, but the two careers prove similar.

Although she no longer draws blood, measures heart rate or tends to sick patients, Holliday ensures other needs are met within her line of work.

“The difference [between being a nurse and a restaurant owner] is you can’t always get a good end result with nursing,” said Holliday.

What is the “end result” from dining at The Black Olive?  Homemade calzones, of course.

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