Tattoos Are a Business, There’s No Going Back, and That’s Probably OK

Photo credit: Robert Bykowski / THE CHRONICLE

Maybe it’s elitism or maybe it’s a certain sort of understandable (and indeed forgivable) obstinacy that comes along with having been part of a particular culture for a long time (or having been immersed in a long-standing culture to the extent that one feels as if they had been there all along), but the fairly recent and widespread commodification of body modification (though mostly tattoos) sits incredibly poorly with most members of the community who were present before Miami Ink ever aired, or who joined afterward but felt retroactively slighted by that sort of supposedly crass and exploitative commercialism. And that’s fine, to an extent. Tattooing has always been a markedly different phenomenon than, say, fitness or cooking shows, but it’s a phenomenon nonetheless, and with acceptance comes a geometric level of growth. Not even a few years ago, what are the chances that the opening of a tattoo shop would have warranted a rather large newspaper feature?

The shop, Windy City Ink, 166 W. Division St., opened on Aug. 13. Owner Gary Parisi said he could not comment on which network would be airing the show but expects to start filming in the next few months. Windy City also has flat-screen digital catalogs and plans to open up a laser tattoo removal shop next door-expensive endeavors most tattoo shops won’t invest in. [...]

The shop is open until 2 a.m., and Parisi said customers can bring in iPods or MP3 players to play. Though many shops have a private room or two, it’s rare to have curtains hanging around every station, like Windy City does.

But what may be unique to this Chicago shop are the flat-screen catalogues which should be installed by Sept. 20. While other Chicago shops have “flashracks” to look through designs, Parisi said, the flat-screens are clean, efficient, fast and categorized.

Jerrett Querubin, 24, who was flown in by Parisi from Albuquerque, N.M. to finish his apprenticeship, said Windy City’s goal is to be a high-class tattoo shop, almost like a salon. But Parisi decided to open early because he could still do business while doing construction, he said. The staff is still working toward their goal of making the shop immaculate and professional.

That tattoo shop owners are embracing the role of tattoo removal as a means of enhancing work rather than running counter to their profession is impressive enough, but to acknowledge the practice as good business as well speaks to a sort of sea change, and the argument could be made this kind of forward momentum is due partially to the aforementioned commodification. Though Venus and others have been ahead of the curve when it comes to envisioning body modification as a service worthy of the “spa treatment,” this Windy City Ink shop seems like it could be indicative of the next great step toward mainstream acceptance, and really, what does the average tattooed person have to lose by visiting a shop that is also a tightly run organization with top of the line equipment and a grown-up business model? The shop will, after all, offer its employees health benefits and all the dressings that come along with a real career.

But then maybe this isn’t indicative of anything at all, it is an anomaly and all it proves is that a shop like Windy City Ink is a good place to film a television show.

In one advertisement for the shop they have been doing every weekend since opening, girls wearing body paint promote the shop with fliers at bars.

“The girls are completely naked,” Parisi said. “It’s the first thing you’re going to remember when you wake up in the morning. Even if you were drunk, you’ll pull out the card and think, ‘Where did I get this from? Oh yeah, there was this girl naked as hell with big t—–s flappin’ around.’”

The truth is probably somewhere in between — that tattooing and body modification being thought of as fields in which a person could realistically work without fear for the future, and stamping out the idea of becoming a piercer as a fall-back plan when society at large isn’t ready for your full facial tattoo, these are undeniably good things. And maybe for these to become proper mandates, maybe that does require a small amount of soul-selling, but it’s worth it, isn’t it?

What do you think?

Chicago Gets Inked by New Tattoo Shop [Columbia Chronicle]

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