If you’ve ever dined at the True Grit Café, odds are you’ve met one of the restaurant’s long time employees, Donnis Parrie. A bright-eyed, warm woman who will greet you with a friendly “how are you doin” in a slight Southern drawl.
With beautiful silver hair and glasses that she wears hanging around her neck, Donnis’ welcoming smile and demeanor immediately make you feel at ease and at home.
Donnis has been working at the cafe for 18 and a half years and has become an important piece in the foundation of the restaurant.
“I moved to this area in 1999 from Carbondale, Colorado where I had been working as a manager/server at a restaurant,” said Donnis. “After a short stretch of working for a smokehouse in Colona that eventually closed down, I decided in August of 2000 to apply for a job working for True Grit Café. To my excitement I got the job!”
During her first two weeks of training Donnis recalled sitting guests on a deck that at the time was located behind the kitchen at the back of the restaurant. ““I remember how funny it was having to walk people through the kitchen and out to the seating deck behind the restaurant,” said Donnis. “But that was my station and I loved it.”
Donnis is no stranger to the restaurant and hospitality business. She was born and raised just south of Houston, Texas. At the age of nine her mother began working as a bartender and soon after opened her own business, where Donnis gained hands on experience. At the age of 21 she moved to Houston where she lived for 15 years before moving to Colorado.
“I definitely got my work ethic from my mother,” she said. “I started working at a young age in our family business. I really didn’t learn what it was like to work with or for someone else until moved to the city. I was a cocktail waitress for big companies, and it really taught me a lot.”
Donnis’s work ethic and positive attitude is part of what has made her so loved at the True Grit Café and in the community.
“She is literally a ray of sunshine,” said Tammee Tuttle, True Grit Café Owner. “Everytime she walks through the door she chooses to be happy and she chooses to be positive. I know what she has gone through in her personal life from the loss of loved ones and more, yet everyday she still makes that choice to be positive and it’s truly inspirational.”
Tammee explained how Donnis is always serving as an example to the young employees that work at the restaurant. “Donnis doesn’t say ‘I’m not going to do that,’ she does her job and then some. She isn’t too good to do anything. The fact that she teaches those values to our employees speaks to the kind of role model that she is.”
What makes True Grit Café such a unique experience for locals and tourists is that you will always find consistency. You will find consistency in knowing that every meal is going to be delicious and thoughtfully sourced, but also in the familiar faces of the people that you will interact with.
“In this day and age when you go to a fast food restaurant you might never see that same face again,” said Tammee. “But Donnis is always here. When she’s gone people want to know where she is and when she’ll be back. A house has to have a foundation and she is part of ours.”
On December 31, 2018 True Grit Café celebrated being open for 33 years. Donnis has experienced a large portion of those years and expressed that although each year is increasingly more busy, she still loves working there every single day.
“Everyday we have our long-time local customers, but we also get new faces that come through the cafe,” said Donnis. “Some are passing through on their way to ski in Telluride, others are just exploring the surrounding towns.”
Donnis said that one thing that hasn’t changed in all these years is that Tammee is still team oriented. “Everyone really loves each other and genuinely cares about one another,” said Donnis. “It’s like a huge family and it’s part of what has kept me here for over 18 years.”
Donnis’s belief that the staff is responsible for the health of the restaurant as a whole shows in her values. “I always try to encourage people to see the bigger picture,” she said. “Having a good day doesn’t depend on how many tips you have in your wallet. Having a good day is when your customers are happy, when your food comes out awesome, and when you were helpful to your co-workers. Whenever all of those things go right, that’s a good day.”
It’s the people like Donnis and the community atmosphere that make True Grit Café the place that it is. “We treat every person like they are special because, well, they are,” said Donnis. “We are all different, but we have an open heart for everyone who walks through our doors. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and beyond, you will always be welcomed as part of our True Grit Café family.”