Tattoo parlors a mark of success

A full-sleeve tattoo

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Recent surveys have shown that more than a third of people 18 to 40 have some sort of tattoo. That means brisk business for ink shops in recent years. And despite the recession, people are still getting them. Andrea Mustain reports.


Andrea Mustain: In a small storefront in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, the tattoo studio Hand of Glory is a welcoming spot. In the back, owner Craig Rodriguez whistles while he works. Shop manager Karen Rockower says there's a reason why they're in a good mood:

Karen Rockower: We were just discussing earlier today that the business is doing just as well as it was last year at this time, which is not consistent with most small businesses in the neighborhood.

And in fact, owner Rodriguez says his latest figures show business is up more than 40 percent from the previous year.

Craig Rodriguez: I've never really taken any real downhill turns yet.

And with tattoos moving from the fringes of society to the mainstream, he plans to expand. Rodriguez is opening a second shop upstate in the Catskills Mountains.

But let's say you're at the mall. You just got a new outfit, and you want a tattoo to match. Now you don't have to wait. Yes, tattoos are at the mall. At least this one in Wayne, New Jersey.

Heath Wolfson: Our tattoos have grown 35 percent year over year, which is pretty spectacular.

That is Heath Wolfson, the CEO of Tattoo Nation. The company hopes to do for tattoos what Starbucks did for coffee. They're expanding into several more malls this year. Wolfson says in this tough economy, it's a question of bang for the buck.

Wolfson: Would I rather buy a pair of jeans that are gonna go out of style in six months, or would I rather get a tattoo that's going to last a lifetime?

But back at Hand of Glory in Brooklyn, Craig Rodriguez says people don't just get tattoos because they're cost-effective. He says they're fun.

Rodriguez: It's a little bit of an escape, and I think that's what human beings do.

Even during hard times. Client Zach Greenblatt says it's impossible to pin down the psychology behind tattoos, but he has his reasons.

Zach Greenblatt: It could be because you're showing yourself that you can get through things, like I am.

Greenblatt just got laid off a few weeks ago. But he says he won't let that stop him. He's adding red roses and a black crow to the intricate tattoo that already runs down his arm. He says tattoos can serve as a kind of memorial.

Greenblatt: Sometimes people will go through something horrible and you'd think they'd want to just completely forget it. But they mark it on themselves. And that's just a different way I guess of dealing with life.

Greenblatt says don't be surprised if ex-Wall Street bankers start getting dollar sign tattoos.

In New York, I'm Andrea Mustain for Marketplace.

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