After closing its doors on March 16, due to the Governor’s orders, Splash of Color Tattoo & Piercing Studio reopened to customers on July 6. For regular customers, what they see at their next visit is likely to be a lot different.
Communications Director Anne Lux spoke about the changes, and the effects of the pandemic on the longstanding East Lansing business. “COVID-19 has impacted us in more ways than we can even explain. It has been the greatest challenge we’ve faced in over 30 years of business,” she said.
During the four-month shutdown and stay-at-home orders, staff looked to find ways to keep employees and clients, find PPE, and keep the lights on while generating no income from the studio. Lux said the supplies cost at least three times what they used to.
Perhaps the biggest change at Splash is the transition to appointment only – no walk-ins allowed. Appointments are required for all services, and for shopping. There are also a limited number of guests allowed – no more bringing in friends or companions to hold your hand while you get a tattoo (although there’s an exception for minors and their parents/legal guardian).
“We hope this requirement will only be temporary, but we understand the need and shall abide,” Lux said. “Bottom line: we will do what we need to do in order to create the safest environment for our employees, their families, our clients, and our community.” Previously, 50% of piercings and 30% of tattooing came from walk-ins.
There was also a major overhaul of the studio itself to ensure safety and comfort. A fresh coat of paint was applied, new flooring installed, social distancing signs placed at the doors and in the lobby, and hand sanitizer dispensers were mounted on the walls at entrances, exits, and inside each procedure area. There are even step-off ‘sticky’ mats positioned at the entrance and exit to trap any dirt/debris from shoes. Currently, the lobby/waiting area is closed.
The new safety precautions are one of the main priorities of owner Kris Lachance. Lachance is an Authorized Outreach Instructor for OSHA General Industry, specializing in Bloodborne Pathogens & Infection Control Education for Tattoo Artists, Professional Piercers, and Health Departments & Health Care Professionals interacting with the Body Art Industry. She is also a member of the Michigan Department of Community Health Body Art Committee; the Michigan Regulatory Waste Act Revision Committee and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Body Art Committee.
Custom-made sneeze guards were constructed by tattoo artist Jason Salinaz, and installed at the jewelry cases – adding an additional layer of protection for clients and counter staff. Within the tattoo and piercing rooms, there are new procedure tables, chairs, and wall-mounted lockers to hold client belongings.
All vending machines and beverage carts have been removed, as have hard copy portfolios and magazines. To minimize cross-traffic, the front door is now marked as ‘entrance only,’ and the back door is marked as ‘exit only.’
Additional screening is also taking place with customers before they can receive tattoos or piercings. “We’re asking health screening questions three different times – when we schedule your appointment, when you arrive at the studio, and we’re also calling the day before the appointment. Mainly, we want to check for symptoms of respiratory infection or the flu, make sure the client hasn’t had any known exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if they’ve traveled to high-risk areas,” Lux explains.
When clients do arrive, they’ll be provided with a fresh surgical face mask to be worn the entire duration of their visit. Reusable cloth masks may not be worn inside, and service will be refused to anyone without a mask. “For health and safety reasons, if clients are unable or unwilling to wear the mask we provide, we will have to postpone their appointment until the masking requirement is lifted by the state,” Lux said. “It’s important to remember that clients are only in contact with two staff members when they arrive, whereas staff members are in contact with several clients each day. The better quality mask clients wear, the better the protection for our staff.”
While Lux said medical-grade gloves, masks, and eye protection (safety glasses or face shields) are minimum mandatory protection from bloodborne and airborne pathogens, Splash of Color is going one step further. “We are also choosing to implement single-use, fluid-resistant lab coats for our tattoo artists. Because they are in much closer proximity to their clients for longer durations of time and have more exposure to blood and body fluids throughout the procedure, these will protect their skin and underlying clothing.”
Since the business reopening on July 6, clients have been happy to walk back through the doors. “Our clients have been amazingly patient and understanding,” Lux said. “We’ve received some of the most touching comments on social media from them. They know that we waited the extra three weeks to ensure we had everything we needed to keep them safe.”
The surrounding community is also excited to see the shop reopen; the East Lansing’s Downtown Development Authority awarded them a $2,500 grant. “The East Lansing community has always been wonderful to us – both its residents and businesses. We’re on the best block and are grateful for all the support we get from places like The Peanut Barrel,” Lux said.
They’ve also felt support from the tattoo artist community statewide, and have started working with others to create ‘Tattooing Beyond COVID-19.’ Lachance, Geary Morrill (Ferndale) and Johnny Andres (Ferndale) came together as “a group of like-minded tattooers and tattoo shop owners who are looking to spread information and ideas about how our tattoo industry and community are going to collectively move forward safely towards reopening after the current COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.” On this website, tattoo artists and body modification studios all over the world have shared their input, experience, thoughts, and tools to ensure a safe, successful future in the business.
Ultimately, the Splash of Color staff know how much trust their clients put in their hands on a daily basis. Anne Lux said: “People come to Splash of Color to celebrate birthdays, to honor lost friends and loved ones, to share a bonding moment, and to decorate their body in all sorts of ways. We are forever grateful and honored to share in all these beautiful memories.”
“We are so happy to be back in the shop we love, to do the work we love, with the people we love,” said Lux.