by M. B. Miller
Alice Lloyd College alumna Kari Thornsberry is living proof that one can still achieve their hopes and dreams despite facing great adversity. While a student at Alice Lloyd, Thornsberry lost her way, but through determination and hard work, she picked herself up and set her mind on a firm purpose for her life, graduating in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Today, she has become the owner of one of Hindman, Kentucky’s best and most popular places to eat, the Holly Hills Restaurant.
The road to success has not been an easy one for Thornsberry. During her sophomore year at ALC, she had to endure the losses of many family members, and then, tragically, her boyfriend of seven years was killed. Her heart was shattered, and finding herself unable to deal with her grief, Thornsberry ended up in a total tailspin. She stopped going to classes and all but disappeared from view.
“I didn’t withdraw from school,” she explained. “I just stopped going. This led to some issues when I wanted to return in the fall of 2003. But I was so determined to reinvent myself that I went before the academic board and begged them to let me back in!”
They did, of course, and Thornsberry took full advantage of the opportunity. It felt like a new beginning, a great light of hope in a time that was filled with so much darkness.
“I worked hard and gave 110%,” said Thornsberry. “I made the Dean’s List, and after resuming my job in the President’s Office, I eventually became a work head in the Student Work Program.”
She also gained a new focus and passion. Prior to her break from ALC, Thornsberry had majored in biology, intent on becoming a pharmacist. However, after having gone through so many difficult circumstances, she realized that this was not the right path for her. Thornsberry switched her major to English, which proved to be everything she needed at that point in her life.
“It became a therapy for me,” she said. “I could express how I felt through writing papers.”
Despite her ongoing emotional struggles and hefty student responsibilities, Thornsberry maintained a full-time job off-campus at the Holly Hills Restaurant. Not yet the owner, Thornsberry worked in the restaurant’s always-busy kitchen and dining room. Her hard work and perseverance paid off, earning her various management positions before she was 20.
“I enjoyed it,” Thornsberry said. “I held down that job while still managing to graduate from Alice Lloyd. It took me six years to get my degree, but I got it.”
Afterwards, Thornsberry worked a few odd jobs, but she always kept her eye on the little restaurant in the Holly Hills Shopping Center that had helped to get her through such tough times.
“I told myself I’d own that place before I turned 30,” she said, “and I got it for my 29th birthday.”
Today, Thornsberry continues to run the restaurant with great success. In the suddenly shifting economic climate in eastern Kentucky, she has avoided many of the pitfalls to which other local business owners have fallen victim. She counts herself as part of the wave of young entrepreneurs who are beginning to shape the future of the region.
“I have always loved to cook and interact with the public,” said Thornsberry. “I always knew, in the back of my mind, that I would one day be where I am today.”
She isn’t stopping there, though. Thornsberry has big plans for her business, which include an expanded catering service. Considering the obstacles she has overcome, there is no doubt that she will be at the helm, guiding this tiny but much beloved restaurant to even bigger and better things.
**Make sure you stop in and visit! The Holly Hills Restaurant is always serving specials. The restaurant is located at 92 Holly Hills Mall, Hindman, KY 41822. You can also call to place an order at (606) 785-0909.
Alice Lloyd College is always looking for stories about our alumni! If you have a story to tell, or if you know an alumna or alumnus who has received an award, published an article, book, or influential research, or has accomplished something noteworthy, please let us know by visiting this page.