The Journey of Closing, Reopening, and Now Working Amid COVID-19 For Tattoo Artists
Grant Lubbock is a tattoo artist and the founder of Red Baron Ink in New York City. He's sharing what it's been like operating a tattoo shop in the former epicenter of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This story was told to Jessica Harrington and edited for length and clarity.
At the start of 2020, I had two locations. One was on East 11th Street, between Avenue B and C — that was the first Red Baron, which was in business for eight years, established in 2012 — and the other on West 14th Street. Our lease was up at the 11th Street location at time, and we decided to consolidate the businesses into one shop and get the artists together. We closed the original Red Baron Ink in February, and then COVID-19 hit in March.
I temporarily closed the 14th Street location two weeks before the mandatory shutdown because I wanted to protect my artists and protect the people within our establishment. I knew that this was going to be a problem, obviously, after watching the news and hearing about what was happening in other countries.
Consolidating to one location was a blessing because we saved that money, and we didn't have to try to run two businesses during the virus. I only had the second location for about a year and a half, so we didn't even get to hit a full fiscal two years — I didn't know what my operating profit loss would be. It was a heavy weight on all of us, including all the artists that work here, the manager, and the piercers.
There was a period of time where I kind of shut down for about a month — turned everything off, stopped watching the news. I completely focused on my art and tried to communicate with the artists to do the same thing — to continue to produce and draw designs, to stay creatively active.