Richmond tattoo shop holds family friendly expo

by Hannah Dreier, Contra Costa Times, 12/30/2011

Juan Nunez is out to prove that tattoo parlors can be as wholesome as diners or bookstores.

In January, Nunez will host his third annual Tattoo for a Cause expo at the Craneway Pavilion.

Three dozen tattoo artists have signed up for booths at the event, which will also feature live music, food and boxing. All vendors will donate 25 percent of their profits to Children's Hospital Oakland.

"It's hard for people to associate tattoos and hospitals, but we want to show that tattoo artists aren't all gangsters," said Nunez, who has run a tattoo parlor in Richmond for more than a decade.

"We're just artists and we can give back like any other business."

Earlier this year, Nunez Tattoo won Mayor Gayle McLaughlin's monthly small-business award. McLaughlin said she has been impressed with the shop's health standards and commitment to giving back.

"I like that he works with the county Health Department," she said. "It's so much better than thinking of having young people get tattoos in ways that could be dangerous."

Nunez also designs T-shirts for the Richmond Native American Health Center and volunteers on art projects with high school students.

He is advertising the trade show, which drew 1,500 people last year, as a "family friendly event." Children younger than 12 get in free.

One of the shop's employees said she hopes the expo becomes the county fair of Richmond.

McLaughlin is also supportive.

"It's a community event, with lots of people gathering and talking," she said. "They are a positive thing."

With tattoos going mainstream, the old stereotype of the seedy tattoo parlor is losing traction, Nunez said.

"I have directors of hospitals, police officers as clients," he said. "Last month, I had a lady, 75 years old, she got her first tattoo -- little flowers on her wrist."

He sees himself and the artists signed up for this year's event as part of a movement to re-brand tattoo aficionados as socially responsible businessmen and artists.

"It used to be that only gangsters and bikers would get tattoos, but everyone gets them now," he said. "It's become about art."



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