Tattoo studios are not the grimy, germ-filled shops of stereotypes, local tattoo artists say, and they’re ready to get back to business in a safe and sterilized manner.

“We take every precaution a doctor would take,” Seven Souls Tattoo Studio owner Tone Mendez said.

Tattoo studios were allowed to reopen immediately after Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement Monday.

Seven Souls reopened Wednesday after staff diligently cleaned and prepared since getting the green light.

The closure almost led to the shop going under, Mendez said.

“It did affect us financially, having two and a half months without no income, no income for my family, my five kids,” Mendez said. “Honestly, if we wouldn’t have opened this month, we would have had to close the shop.”

Bills and late fees kept rolling in without any help, he said.

“We can’t file for unemployment because we were recognized as entertainment,” Mendez said.

Thankfully, Mendez said, he has appointments scheduled for today.

“We’ve had so many phone calls people trying to come in, but now we’re able to schedule them all,” Mendez said.

Some customers were growing impatient and some were worried, Seven Souls Tattoo Studio piercer Dee Cantu said.

“Some people were mad, confused as to why hairdressers could reopen before we could,” Cantu said. “And some people are still rescheduling because they are now out of work, or worried.”

Tattoo shops haven’t gotten much attention for their struggles during the pandemic, Mendez said.

“I just hope that local surrounding tattoo shops get the love and support that they need, like, Munoz Tattoos, Shark City, Broken Moon, West Columbia Tattoos, Amen Tattoos and Dead South Tattoos. They’re all reopening and I wish them well,” he said.

Tattoo studios perform some of the same services as nail salons, but were not able to open at the same time, Seven Souls microblading specialist Amber Cantu said.

“That two-week difference, it really hurt us,” she said.

Things will be different, but Seven Souls tattoo artist Kale Parker said he will adapt.

“It’s definitely been hard, and it’s going to be different not having walk-ins and doing appointments only, but I’ll get used to it because it’s what we have to do,” he said.

Broken Moon Tattoos is taking all of the precautions required and then some, co-owner and tattoo artist Matthew West said.

“We opened up yesterday as soon as we heard the order and we began preparing, deep cleaning, etc.” West said. “One thing we won’t do is any piercings in the mouth because that presents too many risks until things clear up more.”

West was prepared to ride the virus out as needed, he said.

“We shut down when we had to and we went home,” West said. “I needed to keep my family safe and protected, and I was ready to stay at home as long as I needed to in order to open my business safely.”

There are many misconceptions about the cleanliness and neatness of tattoo artists and piercers, West said.

“I think a lot of it is that scene used to be really grimy, back the early days when there weren’t any restrictions on us and there weren’t any regulations in place, and now we have people who do this more safely,” West said. “We have people who do this for the art of it rather than just the look, and we do therapy almost. People come in and talk to us about their day and we talk to them through it.”

Tattoo artists are trained to be clean, Seven Souls artist Reese Mills said.

“I think that during this crisis if people would just ask the tattoo artists what types of precautions they take and always have taken, that would have been productive,” he said.

All Broken Moon staff takes a bloodborne pathogen training test, West said, ensuring everyone knows the best standards of cleanliness.

“Our bloodborne pathogen training, we all have to take it every year regardless, all the way up to the front counter, down to the guy to takes out the trash,” West said.

Seven Souls did an updated Barbicide tool-cleaning certification course for COVID-19 safety, Cantu said.

“The Barbicide certification is actually easier than the bloodborne pathogen training,” Cantu said.

Barbicide is typically for barbers or hair stylists who don’t usually deal with blood, he said, while bloodborne pathogen training is more specific to tattooing.

“Honestly it’s like a surgical procedure, where you have to keep things as sterilized as a hospital would,” Mendez said.

There is now a hand sanitizer station by the door and staff will check the temperature of everyone who comes in, Mendez said.

West also implores people to not get tattoos or piercings at home, he said.

“It would be better for you to come to a tattoo parlor and get a tattoo or a piercing because there are so many cross-contaminants at home,,” West said.

The shop is doing all it can to practice social distancing, West said.

“Every time anyone walks in, our staff asks people to go wash their hands and to put on a face mask,” West said. “Also we had a lot of magazines, we had a lot of portfolios out, we had a chess set and now the magazines and portfolios are removed for the time being, and we have this ‘do not touch’ sign on the chess set, with the entire waiting area spaced out.”

Piercings at Broken Moon are performed with extreme surgical precaution, co-owner and piercer Julie Ann West said.

“I’m a retired phlebotomist, I used to draw blood for a living, and we use all of the same precautions that I used to use. I integrate a lot of those procedures in my piercings,” she said. “Our procedures are hospital-level, more than I’ve had to endure with my job drawing blood.”

Alexa Crenshaw is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0155. ​

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