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Slingin’ Ink crew celebrates 20 years of service

Local business owner Jaysin Stallard and his crew at Slingin’ Ink in Evarts kicked off the year by celebrating two decades worth of service. Stallard, who has been tattooing roughly 24 years, said 2020 marks 20 years since he opened his shop in Harlan County.

“I originally wanted to be a computer animator and make video games. I actually went and studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh after I got my associate (degree) from Southeast,” Stallard said. “Mom always said I was easy to buy for as long as I had pencils and paper.”

He added like “any kid in the ‘90s,” he did a few “homemade” tattoos with a RC motor, coffee straw and needle.

“It’s silly, but ya know what, we did it,” he said laughing. “I realized with the computer animation stuff, I was basically going to be locked in a cubical all the time, by myself, but anyone that knows me knows I’m a talker. You can’t talk to the walls too much before going insane, so I decided to find something I really dig.”

For Stallard, tattooing ended up being an art he practices daily after learning how to do it properly by becoming an apprentice at a local tattoo parlor in Pittsburgh — celebrating roughly 24 years of tattooing today.

“I ain’t going to lie, but when I opened this place up, it was supposed to be a temporary deal,” he said. “I was going to open a shop in a town where I know a few people and could get better about running it on my own and then move along.”

However, Stallard said with the rise of the opioid epidemic, he ended up staying in Harlan far longer than he anticipated by facing the crisis firsthand.

“I, unfortunately, got caught up with that. It did two things: kept me here and stifled my growth in this industry,” he said, adding it was the worst five years of his life. “So, after a few years of running a decent business, I was wasting more on dope, but some way, somehow, I was able to keep the doors open and the electric on and do things.”

Stallard said in 2005 he was able to begin combating his addiction and work on his sobriety, adding his business was not as great as when he first opened, “as it shouldn’t have been.”

“Everybody knew about how I was, but I fought very, very hard. Around 2008, business was getting a little better and then by 2012 I really started doing great,” he said. “I just kept my head up above water and did everything I had to do to stay away from the nonsense and keep focus on my business. And it paid off.”

Stallard said although there are a few people who still have doubts about his sobriety, the community has been supportive of him both through his business and personally.

“It’s been amazing. I have a great team with me now. Leslie, she is my piercer and my right hand. She really is the one I depend on to help keep things going because we stay so busy, which I’m grateful for that,” Stallard said.

Stallard said he would like to do more than tattooing in the future. He added he loves his community and he hopes he can do more to help the local people in the future.

“Honestly, in another 20 years, I have another adventure I’m hoping to start within the next few years. Right now, I’m going to have a few apartment rentals after I take over the land from the owner,” he said. “Hopefully, if I’m still able to, I hate to say it, but I hope I’ll still be tattooing at 60. I really do. If my back and hands and knees hold out, I’d like to still be doing it.”

Stallard said he has another business idea he would like to pursue in the future, if possible, and he hopes to be able to announce it in the coming years.

“Right now, I look back on tattoos I did 20 years ago, and I’m thinking those are rough looking. I hope 20 years from now, I can look back and say these are good but I’m better now. I want to improve,” he said.

Stallard said he also enjoys being a part of the Evarts City Council and hopes to continue being a part of the community in some capacity.

“If I can still be a part of the council and still be a part of this community, I’ll be happy,” he said. “I love our town, I really do. I know people talk about ‘oh, the coal mines are gone’ but there are other things than just that. All we need, is quit telling our kids to get out of here.

“I get there’s not the best around here, but we can’t keep giving the best and brightest away because then we really won’t have a future. Let them go get education and bring it back so we can grow as a community. We need that experience here.”

Stallard said he is blessed by his business and being able to succeed in having it in one of the most poverty-stricken areas.

“I want to try to get to a point where I can give back and do something for the people that’s helped me so much, which are the local people and I love them for that,” he said.