Thursday, August 13, 2020

A visit to East Side Ink

Text and photos by Stacie Joy

To learn more about businesses in the personal-services category that reopened under Phase 3 of Gov. Cuomo’s PAUSE order last month, I decided to visit East Side Ink, the tattoo, laser and microblading shop at 95 Avenue B between Sixth Street and Seventh Street.

Jen Terban-Hertell, one of the three co-owners (joined by Yadira Mendez-Firvida, the manager and “Shop Mom” and tattoo artist Josh Lord, well-known for celebrity inking) welcomes me to the low-key, no-attitude body art location.

[Jen Terban-Hertell]

She shows me around the open-concept salon, with two floors of space, a good mix of light and dark material, and a plethora of cleaning and sanitizing supplies.

[Ground floor]

[Lower level]

[Yadira Mendez-Firvida and Gianna, East Side manager]

The longtime shop (in existence since 1992, before tattooing became legal in NYC in 1997) is operating as per mandate at 50-percent capacity, and has plenty of space between clients as well a strict(er) regimen for visitors, which Jen explains in our interview below.

Jen’s specialty is microblading. During our conversation, we discuss tattooing during the COVID-19 crisis, what it’s been like since the shop reopened, and about how people use ink to pamper themselves and as a reflection of current events.

What COVID-19 safety precautions do you have in place?

We have numerous safety precautions in place. We’ve been tattooing for more than 20 years so taking safety precautions is not new to us. However, we now require all of our clients to wait outside until their appointment, come to their appointment alone, wear a face mask at all times, have their temperature taken when they come in, fill out our COVID-19 waiver, sterilize their phone, and sanitize their hands.

Also, we no longer allow eating and drinking in the shop. All of our artists are also following the same protocols. They have face masks on at all times and have longer breaks in between appointments to sterilize their stations. And, of course everyone is washing their hands constantly. We’re all a bit OCD when it comes to cleanliness and not cross-contaminating, so this is easy for us!

Were there any ownership or staff worries about being able to reopen?

We are all excited to get back to work and have the opportunity to rebuild. We have been on the block for more than 13 years and just want to get back to normal. Unfortunately, not all of our staff returned, and some relocated during the shutdown. They are missed. Everyone else is happy to be back!


[Charles Arizmendy]

[Caesar Bacchvs]

[Jonathan Ellis]

[Cheo Park]

What has the reaction been from regulars — and potential new clients — about the reopening?

Our clients, artists, and neighbors are all excited to see us back and reopened! Even the local dogs are thrilled! (We give out treats.) Everyone who has come back, or made an appointment is eager and excited to be coming in and doing something nice for themselves. It feels good to pamper yourself.

Were there any long-term business effects from the PAUSE order?

It’s too soon to tell what the long-term effects will be from the financial impact. However, in short term we are just trying to rebuild. As a small business we did not qualify for any loans and are still responsible for a huge overhead. It will be nice to just survive all this as a business and move on. Only time will tell and we are still in the process of figuring it all out.

Have current events influenced anyone’s choice for a tattoo? For example, have you had any COVID-19-related tattoo requests? Or any from the BLM movement after George Floyd’s death?

Yes. We have always done tattoos as a reflection of the times. We did a lot of tattoos during 9/11 as well. People use tattoos as a way of healing and claiming and taking control of their bodies. It’s very rewarding for us to provide that.

How have things been since you reopened the shop? And what are your plans moving forward?

Things have been good but different. A large percentage of our clients were people from out of town — tourists and walk-ins. We no longer have them. We are just focusing on our locals and regulars and continuing the work we started before the shutdown. We are hopeful for the future.

We’ve been in the neighborhood through 9/11, Sandy, the blackout and now COVID-19 lockdown, and the protests/riots. Our plans moving forward are to keep working, doing our best and providing joy to people when times get tough. We’re not going anywhere so come in and get tattooed, microbladed, or laser off something you never liked! You can’t tell but we’re smiling under our masks.

You can keep up with East Side Ink on Instagram.

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