CALEDONIA — Mark “Crab” Reagan spent his morning wandering around his tattoo shop cleaning, organizing, providing a handful of clients with art consultations — pretty much anything other than actually tattooing.
That was his life for three months.
“You’re still paying rent in the shop — your landlord still has to pay his bills,” said Reagan, who owns and operates Family Anvil Tattoo in Caledonia. “But you can’t make money. I’ve never been told that I can’t make money. It’s been very, very stressful.”
Reagan is a 30-year veteran of the industry, owning shops in both Battle Creek and Kalamazoo from 1996 to 2009. He had 11 people working for him before selling off those shops and retreating to the more rural area of Delton, where he went into business for himself.
About two and a half years ago, Reagan made the move to Caledonia, leasing out space at 9864 Cherry Valley Ave. SE in a strip mall he shares with businesses including Boondox Motorsports and a PFCU branch location.
He said that locating his shops off the beaten path has helped with overhead, contending with rent that is much more manageable.
“I’ve seen people closing shops,” Reagan said. “A lot of shops, the rent is high because they’re in a high-traffic area and they have five or six guys working. When you have all that business stop, and you have a seven or eight thousand dollar rent payment, three months of that, it buries you. It’s hard to plan for.”
Reagan’s business was classified in the same industry segment as hair salons, spas and other non-essential personal care businesses that were out of commission the longest. He was able to resume tattooing clients on June 15 and filled up his appointment sheet to make the most of it.
“We have been crazy busy. People have been contacting me the second they found out when we could reopen,” Reagan said. “All of the appointments that I had (scheduled during the shutdown), people are rebooking those. And, some new people are booking.”
To pass the time and stay financially afloat, Reagan had spent the previous three months honing his craft in other ways, providing artwork for clients and even designing some business logos.
Still, the shutdown has proven devastating, putting a pinch on his financial life at home.
“This has been shattering everyone’s life, especially for tattoo artists,” he said. “We don’t have a retirement plan, we don’t have a 401(k), we don’t get unemployment normally. We do now. It’s the first time we’ve been able to get unemployment, because we’re a cash business. It’s been very stressful.”
While he remains skittish at talk of a potential second wave of COVID-19, Reagan said he is confident in his business as long as he has an opportunity to operate without interruption.
“When operating at full capacity, I make a good living because I charge a good rate for what I do,” he said. “I’ve been tattooing for 30 years. You’re not just paying for a generic service — you’re paying for me specifically. I have a market that follows me — they come specifically for me and they have for 25 to 30 years. I still tattoo a lot of the same people.”
News coverage in the small business section of MiBiz is made possible by advertising support from the Small Business Association of Michigan. SBAM is the statewide and state-based association that focuses solely on serving the needs of Michigan’s small business community. This advertisement has no effect on editorial consideration in MiBiz.