Thirty years in the past, there have been just a few varieties of companies you would count on the common downtown to have. A ironmongery store. A pharmacy. A shoe retailer. Issues like that.
However these staple companies on Most important streets have shifted in more moderen many years, to as a substitute embrace issues like espresso outlets, craft breweries, and, as in most Maine cities with a downtown, a tattoo studio.
In truth, it’s exhausting to think about most main cities and cities in Maine with out one. Twenty years in the past, you would depend on one hand the variety of tattoo studios within the Bangor space. At present, there are 12, six of that are in downtown Bangor, three of that are on the identical aspect of Most important Road, inside 200 ft of each other.
“I grew up in Bangor. Once I obtained into tattooing 20 years in the past, I didn’t assume it might be a progress business, the place I’d be mingling with different enterprise house owners,” mentioned Corey Paradise, a Bangor native who has operated Paradise Tattoo in Blue Hill since 2007. “I assumed it meant being out on the perimeter, and coping with a smaller demographic, and at all times being this type of area of interest factor. Now I’m tattooing everybody from grandmas to youngsters contemporary out of highschool.”
The tattooing business within the U.S. is price greater than $1 billion, a quantity that has grown by at the least 10 p.c yr over yr since 2016, according to IBISWorld. Everybody from elite athletes to A-list celebrities to politicians have them. In Maine, there are greater than 200 licensed tattoo studios, from Fox Den Tattoo in Caribou to On Level Tattoo Firm in South Berwick.
However it wasn’t all that way back that tattoo outlets have been pushed out to the sting of city, and the general public notion was that solely bikers, sailors and criminals obtained them. Now tattoo artists are an integral a part of revitalizing downtowns nationwide.
“I feel builders and landlords see a tattoo store as a protected wager. It advantages them, relatively than detracts. It’s a rising business, and it’s cool,” Paradise mentioned. “Evaluate that to once I obtained my first tattoo, illegally, in an condominium in Bangor. That’s a loopy shift.”
The tattoos individuals obtained in previous many years have been usually extra easy or traditional, just like the daring, retro designs of individuals like Sailor Jerry and Don Ed Hardy, or adopted sure traits, just like the tribal tattoo craze of the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s. At present, although, they’re as a lot a mirrored image of somebody’s private style as they’re the inventive sensibility of the tattoo artist. Some focus on extremely lifelike portraits, some are recognized for shading and painterly approaches, some excel at lettering and clear traces, and a few do cover-ups of outdated tattoos. There’s somebody for each sort of consumer on the market.
Siobhan Gildea, 29, who opened Birds & Bones Tattoo Studio and Art Gallery in downtown Bangor in 2019 alongside fellow tattoo artist Hailee Winter, mentioned that there’s a little bit of a break up between first-generation tattoo artists, who got here up within the period earlier than the web, and second-generation ones, of which she and most of the artists at the moment working within the Bangor space are.
The truth that there are three tattoo studios — Birds & Bones, Three Graces and newly opened Timber Fireplace Tattoo Co. — all inside 200 ft of one another in downtown Bangor doesn’t hassle Gildea a bit. In truth, she says it’s good for everybody.
“I feel previously individuals needed to shield their craft and their territory as a result of in a number of states it was nonetheless unlawful, they usually needed to struggle for shoppers,” mentioned Gildea, who studied artwork in school and shows her work and drawings at her studio.
“At present the general public notion has shifted a lot, and the demand is so excessive, that there’s no actual want for gatekeeping or for competitors. All of us do various things. And that’s what you need — it’s alleged to be one thing distinctive. You need everybody to have a distinct sensibility. If we have been all the identical it might get boring.”
The truth that tattooing is such an individualized artwork kind and enterprise mannequin implies that the business on an entire is pushed virtually solely by very small companies. The common tattoo enterprise employs only one or two individuals, and really hardly ever greater than 10. However the demand for his or her companies — exacerbated by the truth that tattooists in Maine needed to shut throughout the early days of the pandemic and had a number of months of backlog to reschedule — has by no means been larger.
“I’m booked by means of June 2022,” Gildea mentioned. “It’s form of a wild time for the tattoo enterprise. It’s fairly thrilling.”