Local tattoo shops have seen a growth in business as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
At the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020, tattoo shops had to stay closed for around 3 months due to the safety guidelines that were in place at the time.
"During that time, we had numerous clients offer to pay ahead to try and help us out during the time of no income," Jim Watson, owner of Permanent Images in Alma, said. "We even had a couple just send us checks as gifts to help, which we did not cash. It was truly heartwarming to know people care that much to help us out, it gave us a renewed faith in humanity."
During this time, Watson had some issues unemployment and small business grants.
"We applied and were denied for any small business grants that were so called "offered "and it left us without help," Watson said. "Unemployment was a mess and we never received any help from that until 6 weeks in, but we did receive retro pay so it caught up about half of the bills that occurred during that time."
Some tattoo artists like Bryan Briggs, owner of Iron Tiger Tattoos, came up with other ways to make money during the time they were closed.
"I had to get creative in order to make ends meet and I was really blessed by my clients who bought 52 custom style paintings in that time, mostly pet portraits and other animals," Briggs said. "I cant thank them enough for coming through for me. I have done a lot of giveaways and helped charities since opening up my own shop here 3 years ago and I feel like we were luckily able to cash in a little of that karma last year. In times like these community is so important to artists and Im glad I was in mount pleasant for this pandemic."
Currently, business for most tattoo shops has been busier than usual.
"Right now, Im happy to say things are feeling back to normal. Actually better," Briggs said. "Ive been booked out 2-3 months for awhile, even before the pandemic. But now its more like 4-5. I dont have a conventional tattoo shop its just me and one assistant and It seems like people are more receptive than ever to the way I do things."
Watson's business is also booked in advance with a lot of appointments though he has had some cancelations.
"Recently, as people are laid off and jobs are diminishing, we are experiencing a few cancelations but for the most part we are able to fill those slots," Watson said. "Hopefully the economy doesn't take a downward turn as our business definitely fluctuates with the work trend."
With this rise in tattoo shop sales, both Watson and Briggs have their own ideas as to why this rise is occurring during the pandemic.
"As for the increase in business during this pandemic, I would attribute that to the fact there isn't much that people are allowed to indulge in to have fun," Watson said. "Most if not all clients that frequent our establishment are tattoo collectors because they like the procedure, and enjoy the time they spend with us. Not to mention they definitely like the finished product for years to come. Also I believe the fact that restaurants, and bars have been closed so long that the expense of a tattoo is more obtainable since they haven't had those types of places to spend their money."
Briggs has mentioned that a lot of his clientele have been essential workers.
"I cant say with certainty why its been so good for so many tattoo shops," Briggs said. "Maybe it's the stimulus and unemployment for the shops still allowing walk-ins but I like to think tattoos are transcendent and timeless, youll find them on people of all generations even during the great depression people made a living doing tattoos there is always gonna be that group of avid collectors who will not let you fall if you treat them proper. The people who get big beautiful art tattooed are usually pretty secured in life and career. I think a lot of them never stopped working. People love tattoos many consider it therapy they say it creates a temporary mental escape similar to meditation. That could be much needed in these times."
Both tattoo shops have implemented some safety procedures such as requiring masks to be worn by clients and technicians, sanitizing the work space and tools used in tattoo and piercing practices, and limiting clientele.
"We were also required to start taking certain information like names numbers and addresses for the purpose of contact tracing but all of that was already required in our paperwork," Briggs said. "A disclaimer about covid was added for each client to sign. Weve also restricted the clients from bringing any guests and ask everyone to reschedule if theyre feeling any symptoms."
Watson's provides has masks and hand sanitizers available throughout the store and has limits on who can enter the shop and how many people can enter the shop at a time.
"We are only allowing two clients in the shop at any one time and no face to face consulting," Watson said. "Our entrance door and counter top is sanitized numerous times throughout operations during our work day. We also have implemented a no one under 18 procedure policy until the virus is deemed safe. We only pierce minors ears so this is what we have put on hold."
As the pandemic continues, Watson thinks there could be a decline in business as other non-essential businesses reopen though there likely won't huge decline in business.
"I think as things reopen and other "want" not essential businesses reopen we will see a decline in business," Watson said. "We were one of the few "want" businesses that was allowed to reopen so it narrowed our competition for clients extra money. Also with travel being restricted has kept peoples spending closer to home. I dont believe it will decline tremendously but I'm sure we will feel the change."
Briggs is optimistic about business as long as he remains flexible and continues to follow the rules.
"I do believe I have the lowest risk facility in the area for this kind of circumstance," Briggs said. "Im doing everything I can to make it as safe for my people as possible and I think theyre recognizing that theyve been very supportive so I expect it to continue on the upward trend as long as I keep delivering on my promises and taking care of the people who align with me."
For more information aboutPermanent ImagesorIron Tiger Tattoos, both shops can be found on Facebook.
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