Coronavirus: Tattoo artist predicts slow customer return to Burlington studio in re-opening

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When the risk of coronavirus subsides and Burlington tattoo studio Onyx Ink finally re-opens, artist and owner Alisha Dykema will be raring to go.

So will fellow artists and employees Haley Zaleski and Nicole Christman, whom she had to lay off when the shop closed on March 17 as part of a statewide shutdown.

The trio is taking the off-time to develop new designs, to find new sources of inspiration.

But will tattoo-inclined folk flock back?

It might take awhile, Dykema said Wednesday.

“If there’s a high unemployment rate, are people going to have the funds for tattoos and piercings? ” she wondered. “Are people still going to treat themselves?”

College students typically comprise about 30% of the studio’s clientele, Dykema said — and that demographic won’t surge back until at least the fall.

In its five years of business, Onyx Ink has benefited from a lot of return customers, she added: An artist and client often forge strong, trusting relationships as they work through personal and symbolic designs.

Literally and figuratively, “there’s no way to avoid getting close,” Dykema said.

Masks, gloves and goggles would be burdensome over the course of a six-hour session, she added, but protective equipment might be required for her profession for months to come.

Meanwhile, Dykema struggles to pay rent and utilities at the studio. She tries to stay abreast of new state and federal unemployment programs.

She draws. She recently ordered a sample of synthetic skin with which to keep up her inking skills.

“This has been a very hard transition,” Dkyema concluded. “Still, we’re lucky to work in a business that we love.”

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.

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