Opening April 3 in an old dental office, Body Stylz is Avon Lake’s first tattoo and piercing studio.
Owner Steve Valentine has been pleasantly surprised by the tattoo studio’s reception.
“The opening created a buzz around City Hall,” Valentine said. “We even received flowers from the mayor.”
Valentine said he was a little shocked to realize that his was the first legally owned tattoo shop in the city.
Asked why he chose Avon Lake to open his first studio, he said it was the community.
“It’s a nice community, a good community,” he said.
He also mentioned that many other communities already had several studios.
“The tattoo shops around here have some great artists,” Valentine said. “I am just here to get my work out.”
Valentine, whose designs are originals, apprenticed with his uncle in Georgia before opening his store. He has honed his skills for two years, using the art talents he developed in junior high and high school.
At Body Stylz, he is assisted by his wife, Charity, who also works as a state-tested nursing assistant and is going to nursing school. Keeping it in the family, he said he hopes that his brother, also a talented artist with more than 30 years of experience, will soon join the team.
Asked why he started the business, Valentine said the thrill is the finished product.
“There is nothing better than putting my art on a living canvass,” he said. Besides, “I’ve done the whole corporate thing; it wasn’t for me.”
Tattoo and piercing studios have flourished with a new image, largely free of the previous stigma, he said. It used to be that tattoo studios made one think of “thugs, bikers and prisoners.”
“Today it is more acceptable of society,” Valentine said. “It is a form of self-expression.”
Television and celebrities have helped, he said. Valentine said that not only do you see tattoos on actors, athletes and musicians, “shows like ‘L.A. Ink’ and ‘Tattoo Highway’ during the normal evening lineup has made it seem more normal.”
Charity noted the recent series of “American Idol” and the acceptance of a female contestant who had a largely visible tattoo.
“She had a full sleeve tattoo, which is more of a shocker,” Charity said. “Women are not supposed to go that far out.”
As it turns out, many of the studio’s clients have been women.
“I’ve done more women than men so far,” Valentine said. “I’ve done a lot of flowers and butterflies.” For the men, skulls and daggers are still popular, perhaps fulfilling the studio’s slogan: “It’s all about the PAIN, the INK’s just a souvenir.”
Another reason for the turnaround in the business is safety — something Valentine said he takes very seriously.
“We have to pass health inspections,” he said. “We were inspected by the City of Lorain Health Department.”
While other studios might have their equipment sterilized through autoclaves, Valentine takes no chances.
“Everything is disposable,” he said. “Caring for a tattoo is like healing from an operation. They are subject to infections.”
Because getting a tattoo is an adult decision, and due to health concerns, it is illegal to tattoo anyone younger than 18 without a parent present.
“A parent can’t sign a piece of paper — he or she has to physically be here,” Valentine said.
The problem is that some children will try to do it at home by watching a YouTube video, Valentine said. When they try to hide it from their parents, they risk not taking proper care of it.
Finally, he suggests, “If you are going to get it done, go to someone who is a professional. Don’t try to do it at home.”
If things work out, Valentine said, he would love to branch out to establish another studio. For now, he is enjoying being his own boss and would find it exciting “to watch a parade and see his artwork on someone’s arm or back.”
The studio is open Tuesday through Saturday and more information is available on their Web site, www.bodystylz.com.
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