Turns out Danville Ink is a business venture for a Blackhawk couple who made their living in the mortgage profession. Keith Johnson, 42, and Hillary Marckwardt, 36, both Monte Vista grads, were ready for a new venture and looked around to see what Danville needed. Hillary said she got the tattoo idea from her Blackhawk moms' group.
"Some of the moms wanted to get tattoos but didn't want to go to Berkeley or Oakland," she said. Market research confirmed this sentiment.
They searched for the best place to open shop, Keith said, and when a salon moved out of the old house on Rose Avenue and East Linda Mesa, they knew they'd found their spot. It's the former home of Carmen DeVivi, who initiated the role of Father Christmas at the oak tree lighting in the 1970s. Now enlarged to 2,500 square feet, there is space for several tattoo stations and a piercing room that offer privacy. Keith emphasized that they remodeled with sterility in mind using washable surfaces and emergency room flooring.
The place seems homey, with a fireplace and a comfortable couch, but still has edgy touches, such as a pillow decorated with a skull and a leopard-striped chair. Upstairs the atmosphere is upscale salon with soft tones and yummy scents. This is where the permanent makeup tattooing is done - eyeliner, lipstick and beauty marks.
The owners and staff members were friendly as they went about their business, refilling the cabinets with jewelry and piercing ornaments. Tattoos should be chosen carefully, they all agreed. "What you get at 20, you maybe don't want at 40," said Keith. Tattoos can be removed by laser but a simpler solution to an unwanted tattoo is to have it redesigned. "Our artists do unbelievable cover-ups," Hillary said. "If someone has a tattoo and actually hates it, they can get something that means something to them today."
Rob Robinson, one of the artists, said tattooing the name of a girlfriend is called "the curse." He told the story of a guy who was getting his sweetheart's name applied across the front of his neck, despite admonitions from the tattoo artist; sure enough, the girlfriend called right in the middle of the process and broke up with him. Some get names tattooed to try to save the relationship, Rob added, but it's usually a bad idea.
Children's names are safer. Keith already had a small tattoo of his daughter's name, which he has recently enhanced with flowers and flowers; Hillary has a sunburst on her ankle she acquired the day she turned 18 while attending Chico State. (I note, in case my kids are reading, that "Mom" is another foolproof option.)
The minimum cost for a tattoo is $80. Customers talk to the individual artist about the design, placement, amount of detail and price, said Hillary. Does it hurt? I asked. "It's more of an annoying feeling," she said, recalling that when she had her sunburst done, the ray hitting the ankle bone hurt somewhat.
Danville Ink has been drawing customers from Danville, Alamo, San Ramon, Pleasanton and Livermore. "A lady who is 66 came in for her first tattoo," said Hillary. An older man whose wife just passed made an appointment to get a tattoo with a heart and his wife's name in it.
"The tattoo thing is just fun," said Keith, "forced on us by economics." Now they want their shop to be part of the community. They've joined the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce and have contributed to charitable causes with gift certificates, jewelry and tattoo collection purses.
The shop's tattoo artists double as walking advertisements. Keith said he purposely hired three personable guys who could frequent downtown to display their body art. As the weather warms up, keep an eye open for piercer Bryan Lindstrand and his "icon's leg," with likenesses of JFK, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Then check out Tattoo Ink - at least for the jewelry.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.