CLAY CITY — It's lunchtime at Randy's Place.
At the new restaurant on Main Street in Clay City, Randy Lacy's police badge hangs on the wall.
In the kitchen, his brother and son are mastering Randy's specialties, including chicken and dumplings. Customers sit around telling the stories and jokes that Randy Lacy loved.
"He's here. You can't see him. But he's here," says Kathy Chaney, a waitress who is also Lacy's cousin. Her voice catches at the thought of the slain Clay City police chief, gone now two years. Lacy, 55, was shot to death June 13, 2007, when he was arresting a man charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
Although his life's work was in law enforcement, Randy Lacy dreamed of opening a restaurant.
Two years after his death — almost to the day — the late police chief's brothers and his widow opened Randy's Place in Lacy's memory.
The Lacy brothers — Garland, Ted, Chester and Randy — always shared career interests. They followed each other into law enforcement and at various points co-owned a gas station and a garbage business. The restaurant seemed like a way to keep Randy in the mix and to include his widow, Ruth, Garland Lacy said.
"He could have been a chef," Garland Lacy said. "We just want to carry on what he wanted to do."
Ruth Lacy needed a project to move her into the future. "It means so much to me," she said.
Like many small-town diners, the doors open at 7 a.m. seven days a week, and the menu is wide-ranging, with an emphasis on homemade and garden fresh. Ted Lacy, who retired as Powell County jailer in March, said he also cooks up his and Randy's special hot dog chili sauce, their baked beans and coleslaw. Appalachian delicacies like fried cabbage and hoecakes are usually part of the daily $5.99 special.
In its first three weeks, business has been brisk.
Firefighters from Canada arrived at the Clay City restaurant riding motorcycles. Two vanloads of people made the trip from Fleming County.
Seniors from Montgomery County sat at one table on a recent Thursday, school teachers from Winchester at another. Police officers are coming from all over.
"I never thought it would be this busy," Ted Lacy said.
"The community's really responded," Chester Lacy said.
Randy's son Kevin Lacy said that during the restaurant's most hectic moments, he thinks of how his father would have loved to be washing dishes in the kitchen right beside his 17-year-old grandson Gary.
Chester Lacy, who transports prisoners for the Powell County jail and is in and out of the restaurant, thinks of what might have been, too. He says that when it's permissible and appropriate, he wears a few pieces of his late brother's uniform just to honor him.
Customer Judy Pergram of Mount Sterling and her friends said they came for the food and got the bonus of hearing the story of Randy Lacy.
"The restaurant is a good way to keep his memory going," Pergram said.
Garland Lacy, who provides court security in Powell County, said the family has been careful in both the way the restaurant is staged and in the demeanor of the staff not to go overboard in memorializing Randy Lacy. There are a few photos on the wall and one image on the menu, and that's about it.
In Clay City, population 1,300, people don't have to be reminded.
"Most everybody thought the world of Randy," Chester Lacy said. "His view of law enforcement was helping people, not hurting them. And that made them not want to disappoint him. They wanted to do good."
Lacy had arrested James H. Barnett, now serving a life sentence in prison, several times before the day that Barnett killed him.
They knew each other in another way, too. Randy Lacy dressed in a Santa Claus suit and gave Barnett's children Christmas presents.
There's another story that happened about five years ago, when a young boy in Clay City was burned in an accident. Randy Lacy wrapped him in a sheet, ran with him to a waiting police cruiser and met the ambulance on the road. People in Clay City credited Randy with saving the boy's life.
Today, the boy's grandmother works as a cook at Randy's Place.
Said Garland Lacy: "Randy would be thrilled."