`The Ashley`
By Mustafa Hussain

Owner and operator Ashley Garrard stands for a portrait at her business A&W Kustom Apparel. Ashley's store front is one of dozens of small businesses located on Main Street.

Ashley Garrard wakes up before sunrise each morning so she can make it to the print shop by 6 a.m. She is greeted by the smell of the minty adhesive, “strong enough to clear your nose,” she says.

Ashley, 39, has owned and operated A&W Kustom Apparel on Main Street since 2016. The work is repetitive, meditative and requires precision. She lays on a layer of viscous plastisol ink on her heat press, her “baby,” and then scrapes it across the mesh, pressing it into the material. She learned how to do it from YouTube.

It was her fiancé William Wells’ idea to start the business. It quickly outgrew their basement and then their garage until a large order of 450 T-shirts for a vigil catapulted the business into a Main Street store front. The screen printing shop gives Ashley more time with her family and the freedom to pursue her true passion – coaching high school basketball.

“Printing allows me to do what I love,” she says. “I love coaching.”

Around 2 p.m.,“Baby B” rushes through the door from school. Bryant Dumphord, 8, is Ashley’s great-nephew that she cares for. He runs in and gives Ashley a hug, showing her the gap in his gums from the tooth he lost earlier in the day and throwing his things onto the little blue cot with a Spider-Man blanket that Ashley has set up for him.

Together they walk to the Happy People Coffee Company where Ashley orders what the coffee shop calls “The Ashley," a latte with four shots of espresso, a variety of flavored syrups and a “double dollop,” as barista Ethan calls it, of whipped cream. This drink keeps her going through the day.

At 5 p.m., Ashley gets in her car and heads to Lexington, 21 miles away, where she coaches women's basketball at Henry Clay High School. The muffled horns of the marching band practicing outside mingle with the melody of squeaking basketball shoes as Ashley yells instructions to her team running drills. Basketball season starts in November, and Ashley is working to prep her team for the numerous games they will have, an important one being against her own father’s former high school team.

It’s around 8 p.m. when Ashley heads back home to Paris. This is her time to unwind and be surrounded by family. Her step-daughter Nautica Myers, 27, straightens her hair at the dining table while her daughter Asj, 19, visiting from University of Louisville, plates tacos for the family. Ashley finds herself sinking into the couch watching "Ballers" on Netflix before the rest of her family joins her. In a few hours, she’ll be back at the shop to do it all over again. “I get to spend more time with my family," she says, "but this job is tiring."

Ashley spreads plastisol ink across the mesh on her heat press that she calls her “baby.” Plastisol is a viscous ink when heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. She says the heat is nice during the winter but not during the summer.

With her fiancé William Wells, Ashley prints text onto yellow tape at her store. She has been trying to complete 1,000 prints a day.

Ashley Garrard takes a nap on her great-nephew’s cot at her store, A&W Kustom Apparel.

Ashley works hard at her business A&W Kustom Apparel on Main Street.

Ashley checks her great-nephew Bryant Dumphord’s teeth after he returns home from school having lost a tooth. Ashley calls him “Baby-B.”

Ashley and Bryant visit Happy People’s Coffee Company to get lunch and a latte called “The Ashley.”

Ashley coaches the women’s basketball team at Henry Clay High School in Lexington after a long day at her screen-printing store.

Bryant picks up Ashley’s step-granddaughter Kali Wheeler while playing basketball in the kitchen of their home in Paris.

Ashley’s step-daughter Nautica Myers straightens her hair at the kitchen table.

Bryant works on his math homework as Kali teases him.

Ashley rests on her living room couch while scrolling through social media on her phone after a long day.