Ashley Butler always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. A Memphis native and graduate of the University of Tennessee, she began her trek towards independence with jobs that prepared her for running her own business. Her first job, first as an intern and then full-time, was with American Accessories International in Knoxville, where she learned the ropes of product development and project management. Returning home, she took positions with the March of Dimes, Buff City Soap, and Phillip Ashley Chocolates, which honed her creative marketing and communications skills. Everything she learned, she is putting to good use as the founder of The Ashe Bar, an online site offering a hand-selected collection of barware and mobile bar service. Meet our newest go-getting FACE of Memphis, Ashley Butler!
What was the catalyst to opening The Ashe Bar?
I was working for Buff City Soap when the pandemic hit. Around the same time, Buff City moved their headquarters to Dallas, leaving me without a job. I decided to take a moment to take stock. I asked myself, “What is it that I really want to do with my life?” The Ashe Bar was the answer.
What appeals to you most about being an entrepreneur?
I get to do what I love every single day! I appreciate the balance and flexibility that entrepreneurship gives me. I have the ability to build my own schedule and the freedom to be creative.
What led you to get into barware specifically?
I’ve always enjoyed learning about wine and spirits, especially the stories behind distilleries and wineries – why a person or family chose this business and the traditions behind it. And I enjoy expanding my palate. I wanted to share my passion with others, so I started with my friends. When I began hosting gatherings, I wanted to have the proper glassware. When I curated a cocktail, I wanted to have the right tools to use. Eventually, I started sharing the barware I found with my following on social media. I guess you could say it became an obsession! From there I decided it would be cool to create and design my own branded products.
You currently offer a retail component and a mobile bar designed for events. Can you tell us a little about each side of your business, and how you hope to expand in the coming years?
For the retail side, I’ve begun with unique reusable straws as my first collection. The silicon straws are perfect for everyday use – they are a little longer so they are great for tumblers and water bottles. For cocktails, we’ve got steel straw sets in onyx, gold, silver, and iridescent. I plan to expand this year by offering a summer collection that includes insulated cups, ice molds, and garnish sticks. I have some ideas for a winter collection that are in the works. Within the next several years, I’d like to see The Ashe Bar products sold in major department stores and wine and spirit shops. My biggest dream is to develop wine and spirits under The Ashe Bar label and open a crafted cocktail bar.
I also offer a mobile bartending service that specializes in creating an elevated beverage experience that includes curated cocktails, personalized touches and accessories, and beverage displays. A few years from now, I hope I’ll have a team working for me to take on more events.
What are some of your own favorite cocktails?
I prefer spring/summer cocktails. I’m a fan of those floral, citrus-based flavors. Gin is one of my top spirits, and one of my all-time favorites is a traditional Bee’s Knees – but with a spin. I create my own honey-floral simple syrup using elderflower and maybe a little lavender. I use Empress 1908 Gin to give it a cool color. It wows people all the time.
I like making sangria in the summertime with delicious fresh fruit and served in a pretty pitcher. A traditional margarita is a go-to; I like to make “crazy” drinks on occasion, but I am very simple and classic when it comes to my own palate.
What do you love most about Memphis?
I love a lot of things about Memphis, but I think what I love most is organizations like Choose 901, the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, and Leadership Memphis. They are working to make positive changes in Memphis, bring about diversity, and expose the city to new ideas. I love the new things and activities that are happening in Memphis. Crosstown, for example – I just can’t get enough of Crosstown Concourse.
On the flip side, I love the Southern culture and traditions that are special to us. We are the home of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, Memphis in May, and the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest. Those are the things I often tell people when they ask about my city.
What do you do each morning to get the day started?
Each morning, after my 6 a.m. alarm goes off, I spend about 15 to 20 minutes quietly reflecting and praying before starting my day.
Where can we find you when you are not working?
You’ll find me spending quality time with my close friends and family, dining at new or favorite restaurants and bars; enjoying my favorite genres of music, R&B and soul; discovering new wine and spirits, and traveling.
What’s your best piece of advice?
I would say two things. First, with hard work and belief, anything a person can imagine and dreams can happen. I am living proof of that! Second, when I’m worried about getting funding or proper resources, or any number of other things, I remember that all I have right now is all I need. You have to utilize what you have right now to get to where you want to be.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Authentic Mexican-style tacos, a good bottle of champagne or sparkling wine, and my passport.
Thank you, Ashley! All photography by Ambria Marie Beasley.