By: Erin Flaviano, Loyola Junior; Jimena Hallal, Loyola Sophomore; Maia Koch, Loyola Freshman; Caitlin Waldron, Loyola Sophomore
The tattoo industry has held its ground during this pandemic. After talking to a local artist, we learned the ins and outs of this little-known world.
Eddy Bernotas and Bryan Von Holst, the co-owners of Rocket Tattoo, met in high school in 1997 and have been friends since. Later, they became tattoo artists who dreamed of opening a shop together. Their dreams came true in 2018 when they began the process of working towards opening up a shop. The duo had a small opening for their friends and family in April 2019. However, the shop did not open to the public until May of that same year.
Rocket Tattoo spent the majority of their first year making a name for themselves. They started with friends and family and later their customer base grew. However, after establishing themselves in the tattoo world, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. RogersEdge Reporters had the opportunity to talk with Eddy Bernotas about Rocket Tattoo, how it started, and how it’s been going.
Opening a tattoo shop was something that Bernotas and Von Holst had always dreamed of doing, despite having worked in different shops.
Eddy Bernotas said, “It was honestly a little bit of the seat of our pants. I had been working for another company for seven to eight years after I got back from the Navy. Bryan had worked at a few different shops. As much as he loved it there, he always dreamed of being his own boss. I’m the same too. There’s something to be said about the extra pride of ownership. When it’s your own reputation on the line you put a little more thought into things.”
Being the co-owner of Rocket Tattoo, Bernotas makes sure that every customer he helps is treated correctly.
Bernotas said, “That comes back to when in another lifetime years and years ago, I was a salesman and that’s just something that has been instilled in me; people like hearing follow-ups. I always give everyone my personal cell phone number so they can reach out to me if they have any questions about healing or if they wanna pass it along to a friend. I feel like it creates a closeness that not necessarily any other industry has.”
With tattooing already being a constant process of maintaining cleanliness, working the shop during COVID was not the biggest change in their careers.
Bernotas said, ”Luckily tattooing, unlike other industries, we are already extremely familiar with cleanliness and diseases. We sanitize, wipe down surfaces, and replace our gloves constantly so we were prepared. We have to limit the number of guests we can have, take their temperatures, and sanitize their hands and phone screens. When we first reopened, we were struggling to find paper towels. Now the big-ticket item is gloves and they’re triple the price. We have to make sure we always have these items on hand because we can not run out; they’re vital items.”
Similar to many businesses, Rocket Tattoo shut down at the beginning of the pandemic but they are open once again.
Bernotas said, “We closed around St. Patrick’s day of last year, when everything closed down, until the second week of June. We had to prepare by cleaning the shop and getting the equipment. When we first opened, it was by appointment only. We currently aren’t taking walk-ins but we are taking same-day appointments made via email or call.”
With Rocket Tattoo creating a great reputation back in 2019, maintaining that same image has been about running a great business during the pandemic. With a bit of a rocky start when they reopened during COVID, their business still remained strong with clients flowing in and out.
To see some of the Rocket Tattoo artists’ work, visit their Instagram: @rockettattoos.