By Chris Cobb
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Downtown Towson is now home to – wait for it – a tattoo shop.
After years of being relegated to industrial areas of the county – you know, the same places where you would find adult bookstores, adult entertainment and illicit massage parlors – tattoo and body-piercing establishments have now gone mainstream and are permitted in commercial shopping districts.
The first one to take advantage of the new regulation is Triple Crown Tattoo, which opened its doors at 501-A York Road on Feb.22, almost a year after the Baltimore County Council passed legislation allowing it.
Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said he sponsored the bill that allowed tattoo shops into commercial areas because attitudes about such establishments have changed over the years. He said tattoo shops used to be relegated to industrial areas because people were afraid that tattoo businesses might bring in a certain clientele that was not welcome in downtown areas.
That is no longer the case, Marks said, adding that tattoos are now mainstream.
That was good news for those who operate tattoo parlors.
“I fought for six years to open a shop in Towson, and I am very thankful they gave me the opportunity,” said Deirdre Aikin, the owner of Triple Crown. “Towson has a great art history, and I want to be a part of it. We’re not all bad people. Everyone these days gets tattoos. I’m hoping to show them stereotypes don’t have to be that way.”
So far, other businesses and residents in downtown area have not voiced any concerns.
“Some of the residents in downtown Towson were concerned of the types of people a tattoo shop would attract,” said Mike Ertel, the vice president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. “People that don’t have tattoos aren’t into that scene. I think it goes back to when criminals and bikers were getting them.”
Ertel joked about how many people he sees that have tattoos at the beach.
“When I’m at the beach, I look around and I’m the only person there who doesn’t have a tattoo,” Ertel said.
Aikin said the county wanted control over what was going on in the community. They were worried about people under the influence getting tattooed.
“These things do happen in tattoo shops, but it’s my responsibility as the owner not to allow this to happen,” Aikin said. “I’m thankful they trust me to do the right thing.”
Ertel is satisfied with having one tattoo shop in Towson but isn’t sold on the idea of having multiple tattoo shops.
“I have no problem with the first one,” Ertel said. “If we get three, four, or five it’s a different atmosphere. Our intention isn’t to have multiple within a couple of blocks from each other. It’s like bars and restaurants. It’s nice to have bars and restaurants next to each other, but having bars grouped together doesn’t provide a good atmosphere.”
Ertel wants Triple Crown Tattoo to succeed and bring others to Towson.
“I’m hoping it will be a thriving business,” Ertel said. “I hope it will bring new people to Towson and it could be great for other businesses as well.”
It was important for Aikin to work in Towson because her family lives in Baltimore. While working as a tattoo artist in Washington, it would take her two hours to get to work on some days because of traffic. She would sometimes work nights, and by the time she was home, her children and husband would be asleep.
The Washington native has been in the tattoo industry her entire life. At age 16, Aiken began her apprenticeship. Aikin said she enjoys doing a variety of tattoos, but specializes in color mandalas, geometric designs and realism.
The Towson community seems to be OK with having a tattoo shop.
“If anyone is going to do it right, it’s this place,” said Kyleen Davis, a chapter services manager at Disabled Sports in Gaithersburg. “I’ve read good things about the owner and am glad she will be giving back to the community.”
“It’s a college town, and tattoos are big,” said Brian Campbell, assistant manager at The Body Shop at Towson Mall. “Lots of people show interest in tattoos here.”