Staying above ground

Some local piercing and tattoo shops are giving back to the community and planning for the future

COURTESY/BLACK HOLE BODY PIERECING Local tattoo and piercing shops are giving back during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How some local piercing and tattoo shops are giving back to the community and planning for the future
Of the business types that have been forced to close completely, tattoo and piercing shops are some that can be poised to give back to their community with extra supplies. It’s also an industry that faces uncertainty about how a reopening will change the way they deliver business to loyal clients and even newbies who want to explore the world of body modifications.
The News & Review spoke with three business owners about these two efforts that have definitely been occupying their time. Their views show a genuine care for the community—including health care workers, non-profits and their own employees—as well as a drive to re-open in the right way to ensure public safety.

For Jordan Isaacson, who’s owned Reno Tattoo Co. for 11 years, hearing about the struggles of caregivers became a call to action.
“We tattoo so many nurses and doctors and people in the medical business,” he said. “What I was hearing about the conditions, and not having proper equipment, was what really prompted me to do something.”
Isaacson donated a surplus of 500 masks to various medical businesses.

“I just took out a few for my wife (Sarah) and I, and I’ve got some family in the medical field that I gave some to,” he said. “I know a lot of people who work at Renown [Health] who are nurses, and I’ve heard the struggles they’ve had with masks, so that motivated me to donate our supply we had on hand. They need it a lot more than I do.”

Serving the community
Reno Tattoo also does body piercings, and, as such, is a member of the national Association of Professional Piercers. The APP has been pushing businesses to donate, and Isaacson’s colleague Angela Watson also heard that call. She’s the owner of Black Hole Body Piercing, which has been open for 25 years.

Nationwide, Watson said she’s seen a lot of studios stepping up to donate. One studio she knows—Primal Decor in Eureka, California—was making thousands of bottles of its own hand sanitizer, instead of its usual bath-bomb side business, to donate to the community.

Watson said Black Hole’s community giving mission was clear. “Upon hearing that we were closing, we were going over what we needed to reopen and what we could share with the community,” she explained. “So, we packed up all of our extra gloves that we had, and we took our cereal bars and juice boxes—which is what we give to people when they get light-headed—and thought it would be great to donate those to Eddy House.”
Eddy House works with at-risk and homeless young people, and it’s just one of the groups that Black Hole has supported in the past. It has also hosted an annual blood drive, which Watson hopes to continue this year at her location bdtween 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on May 17.

“We’ve been working with Vitalant for years,” Watson said of the blood donation company in town. “And we think that blood is needed more than ever in the community. Vitalant counts on our blood drive. Last year, we had 40 pints of blood donated in one day. We really love doing the blood drive, and our clients are so willing to give.”

There are some challenges for Watson to continue it, since the bloodmobile won’t be able to accommodate the drive this year. Instead, she’s looking at some options to have single-service or pop-up locations for the drive at Black Hole, so there is still proper social distancing.

Watson said that thinking about the community at this time is important for businesses to do. “I’m a giver by nature,” she said. “The best thing for my business is to pay attention to what’s best for the community and respond the best way we can. Being a part of the community is a vital part of success for a small business.”

What a re-open might look like
Watson has also been working with other business leaders to see if there can be sponsorships for antibody tests for first responders. On the local business front, she also has been working with Mark McKinnon, president and artist for Marked Studios, to craft a document on what re-opening tattoo and piercing shops would look like from their perspective, with plans to present a final version to the Washoe County Health District as a first step.

“We’re coming up with the documentation for it: this is what we do and what we will put into practice for us to reopen,” said McKinnon, who has owned Marked for seven years. “We want to outline what kind of steps we need to take to let our officials know we are taking precautions.”
This includes initiatives to ensure social distancing, having appointment-only customers with no walk-ins or fewer visitors, wearing personal protection and cleaning and sterilization procedures—many of which were already in place when some of these businesses were forced to close.

“When you are tattooing, you are definitely breathing the same air as the client—and they are breathing yours, for hours,” McKinnon said. “So, wearing a mask, wearing personal protection for us is a given, and cleaning and use of single-use items will always be important. If we have two clients in a day, everything is cleaned and sterilized prior to the next client getting in the chair.”

The goal is for these companies to be proactive with their reopening plans, even if there is plenty that’s still up in the air. “I don’t think May 1 is realistic anymore,” McKinnon said late last week. “I think … Governor [Steve Sisolak] is going to extend it, but at some point we’ll be hitting a plateau where we can realistically say that certain sectors are going to do their thing again.”

This effort isn’t all McKinnon is working on. He’s also been talking with Reno City Councilmember Naomi Duerr to work on a way to address property rent payment concerns, for a plan that is reasonable for both landlords as well as tenants, and not just the bandage that an eviction halt could be considered.

“There’s got to be a balance, so that lenders can give landlords their bubble, and then that can be handed down to tenants,” McKinnon said. “Everyone needs to do their part.”

Hopes for the future
As far as PPE is concerned, McKinnon wasn’t able to contribute any supplies. “We have gloves, and I called around to Renown and Saint Mary’s and urgent care and emergency facilities, but they didn’t need gloves at all,” he said. “We don’t have masks, and that’s what they were looking for.”
Still, McKinnon is optimistic about a re-open soon, maybe more so than others in his industry.

“My studio is in a different situation, because all of our artists are on the payroll,” he said. “I might be the only studio in Reno, and possibly the whole state, that does that, so everyone is collecting unemployment. But, we’re also all in limbo right now. Everyone is champing at the bit to get to work.”
Issacson is also concerned about what is happening with re-open dates, and he said “We’re discussing with our crew a policy to mitigate any exposure to coronavirus. We have what we need to keep our customers safe.”

Still, he admits to being edgy about a re-open, especially as a midtown business. “We were getting through all of this construction and were seeing this light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I hope we come out of this on a positive note and it gives us a big boom. A lot of people are still interested in trying to schedule with us.”

Watson said she’s comfortable that Black Hole will reopen. “Providing a safe and clean environment for our clients is not new to us,” she said. “I know we can do it. It’s just a matter of when it’s safe to do that and when we are allowed. What does that look like? I don’t know. The landscape for Black Hole has always been as a friendly environment with lots of action. We’re known as one of the busiest places in town, but I think that will have to change. We’ll have to scale back to the point where it’s comfortable to maintain community safety.”

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