An ‘inkling’ for businessPublished 10:21am Wednesday, October 2, 2013
A couple sketchbooks lie on the front counter at Mapleview’s newest business. Binders full of past projects sit in the lobby. Neatly framed images decorate the walls while hardwood floors and fresh paint give the interior a modern feel. Obviously, it is an art studio. Not so obvious: It’s for tattoos.
Alex Wheelock of Rochester opened Alex’s Tattoos on Broadway on Tuesday morning.
With only a glance, it’s easy to see the man knows a few things about ink. There’s the woman’s lipstick tat on his cheek, a ship’s anchor above it, and stars on the other side of his face. Of course, he also has sleeves of ink.
To anybody looking to get some cool body art, it would appear they’ve found the right guy, and the right place.
Alex grew up with a passion for drawing, which translates well into tattooing.
“It’s always been drawing,” Alex said, with his father, Jay Wheelock, sitting behind him. “I got grounded a lot, so I always had drawing time as a kid.”
The father and son may look quite different, but Jay has grown fond of ink. Alex did Jay’s first tattoo, and then more. Now Jay knows his son is doing the right thing.
“I wouldn’t see him doing anything else now,” he said.
During Alex’s time in the military, he spent even more time drawing and expanding his artistic imagination. It’s apparent by his own tattoos and the images on the walls that Alex is adamant about intricate designs and plenty of color.
“We’re trying to push more art, more art than stamps,” he said.
Alex isn’t on his own, either. Two friends and fellow artists, Angie Pipkorn and Amado Cortes, have joined the new venture. Furthermore, there are others who helped foster the new studio, such as area residents Dan Regner and Sara Sayles. Regner, a regular customer of Alex’s, encouraged Alex to start his own business.
“It’s something Alex and I have been working on for two and a half years to get down here,” Regner said.
And Sayles had the perfect spot, at 102 Broadway in Mapleview. As Alex knows, Broadways and tattoo shops go hand-in-hand. However, Alex’s new shop may not be what people would’ve expected. It’s bright, modern, open and has a clean feel. That’s where Sayles’ decorating experience came in.
“It’s such a permanent thing,” Sara said about the whole experience of getting a tattoo. “And we want to make it a pleasant experience.”
“Sara knocked this one out of the park,” Regner added.
Just as Alex opened on Thursday, Cortes arrived to check out the new digs. There’s a bit of a tattoo artist culture, and Alex knows Cortes from the industry. He was happy to land Cortes’ expertise on occasion at the new shop in Mapleview.
Alex greeted Cortes, but then broke the news that their stencil machine wasn’t working. It wouldn’t be until afternoon before they could do some serious work. That’s how things can go on the first day, but despite the risks a new business imposes, Alex and his colleagues aren’t worried.
“It’s always a good thing to spread your clientele base,” Cortes said.
Tattoo clients are loyal, so if you build a reputation, they will come. Cortes, who bounces around several shops, sees that often.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re at; they’re going to come,” he said.
What’s better for Alex, plenty of his repeat customers are already local.
“I’d say 30 percent of my customers in Rochester were from Austin,” he said.
From experience, Alex has learned what to avoid in the business and says “it’s all about treating people right.” He also understands the importance of having the extra help from Pipkorn and Cortes, as customers have their favorite artists.
“I don’t want it to be all about me,” Alex said.
For customers looking for more, Alex’s Tattoos also offers microdermal implants, which are like permanent jewelry. In a week or so, piercings will be available, too.
Alex’s Tattoos on Broadway is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.