Behind every local business is a success story and for Cori Nowalk of Running Iron Cafe, it took years of strength.
If she never left her hometown in Pennsylvania, she would have never met her present partner and let alone launch her restaurant in Fallon.
Or even worse — she could have been killed by her ex-husband.
“He attacked me in the house I’ve lived in since I was a baby,” Nowalk said. “I saw him coming down the hallway with a tire iron and he smashed it into my head.”
Five years prior to moving to Fallon, Nowalk’s ex-husband struck her 144 times from head to toe. At the time, he wasn’t living in the household with Nowalk as they were separated for over two years.
But luckily, she was able to get dispatchers through 911 to listen to the entire time as she had already been on the phone with her current partner.
“I shouted out his name so dispatchers could hear,” she said. “He had my head locked in between his legs. I bit his calf and left a mark.”
Her injuries required care flight to a hospital in Pittsburgh — he was covered in her blood, as Nowalk describes it.
It took her 18 months to heal physically — and emotionally.
“He knocked me in the back of the head and I laid flat,” she said. “He said, ‘I hate you and I wish you would die,’ and left.”
When her ex-husband left, he went back to his mother’s home and took their daughter, who was 3 years old at the time. He was missing for over five hours and an Amber Alert wasn’t even addressed, Norwalk said.
But thankfully, the police located the man and Nowalk’s daughter.
He received a 10-year minimum prison sentence; he will be released in 2020.
“Him getting handcuffed is the only memory she will have of her father and he’ll never know her,” Nowalk said. “Now, my daughter knows some things about him but nothing negative because she’s a part of him.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute on average are physically abused by an intimate partner in the country.
As Nowalk experienced an assault herself, she hopes her story will encourage others to take control, speak up, and recognize the warning signs of domestic abuse in a relationship.
Some of Nowalk’s top advice for victims is to seek help at a domestic violence intervention to provide emergency and long-term shelter, counseling, and confidential address programs.
“You have to act and not panic,” she said. “Not every town in Nevada has a domestic violence center. You have to constantly be aware and find a balance.”
There is one center in Fallon. Nowalk’s hometown didn’t have a domestic violence center, but she leaned on supportive family and friends.
“I was already over him and he didn’t like that he didn’t have control,” she said. “You can’t rely on the fact he’s not physical. He could be emotionally and verbally abusive as well.”
Nowalk also said it’s important to document every detail to present to law enforcement. She also advises self-defense classes or obtaining a CWC to help a victim gain confidence, if comfortable.
“I tolerated the threats and every time he blew a small gasket over things,” she said. “I felt silly if I reacted to it. Although he was only 5-feet 1-inch, he was full of rage.”
Although the 2,000-mile distance helps, Nowalk said she has to continually plan for when her ex-husband is released, especially since his family is not on her side, she said.
But she doesn’t recommend victims to continue running.
“I’ve allowed all of this to help me move forward,” she said. “I have about five years to accomplish what I want to do. I had to give myself permission to dream again.”
One of her dreams came true as she opened Running Iron Cafe in 2016. Both of her parents were involved in the restaurant industry and she’s been working in it since she was 14 years old.
Nowalk named the restaurant after the cattle branding tool as she is a ranching and horse fanatic herself — a perfect theme for Fallon.
The story on how she got to Fallon, though, is all based on her new love with her current partner, Hill, an alumni of Fernley High School.
She met Hill online in a Facebook group dedicated to ranching. She didn’t meet him in person until he flew to Pittsburgh to see her in the hospital after the assault.
Five years after the assault, Nowalk’s had some revelations about her past.
“I forgive him though,” she said. “Something caused him to be that way.”
Running Iron has moved through a couple of local locations, such as 2055 Trento Lane, now Ana’s Cafe. Nowalk was the third owner of the building as Hill worked on Trento and the owners of former Squeezy’s offered Nowalk the restaurant.
Now at 715 S. Taylor St., Running Iron Cafe is one of Fallon’s most popular sit-down restaurants for gatherings and is undergoing an expansion.
“You can change your life, what you go through is not permanent,” she said. “There’s love after it.”