Shortage of medical supplies due to the COVID-19 pandemic has not just impacted hospitals.
Sanitization is the top priority for tattoo shops like Marked. Tattoo Studio in Mitchell, but as co-owners Alex Smith and Jeremy Zwetzig attempt to create the safest environment possible during the pandemic, the cost to do so is on the rise.
Maintaining and purchasing supplies has been a challenge, with some suppliers struggling to carry products, while also seeing rising costs when they are in stock. Hospital-grade CaviCide has risen from $127 per 12-pack, to $60 per individual canister, according to Zwetzig, making it difficult not to raise prices.
“It’s hard to not pass that on to your clients,” Smith said. “You don’t want to price-gouge. Our medical stuff went way up in price. Some of it, if you’re not going to order it, you can’t really be open. If we don’t have CaviCide, we can’t really be open because it’s risky.”
CaviCide is used to decontaminate surfaces -- preventing infections from diseases such as Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and bacteria and viruses -- and is often used in operating rooms and laboratories. Anything touched in the studio is cleaned with CaviCide wipes, while Smith also mops with the cleaner.
A tattoo artist at Marked. typically used half of a box of surgical gloves per day prior to COVID-19, but that has risen to a full box -- a case of 12 boxes costs $147 -- as a pair of gloves is thrown away each time it touches an item aside from the tattoo gun or the person getting the tattoo.
They have also begun changing filters in the studio’s air conditioning every two weeks as a Harvard study linked potential COVID-19 spread in southern states through air conditioning systems.
“We recommend people to research their shop before they go there,” Zwetzig said. “Make sure they’re taking the steps to make sure (you’re) going to be safe. You can go to shops where the artist is just going about their business and not using sterile stuff.”
All of the increased costs come while transitioning from performing six to 10 tattoos per day to two or three per artist. Appointments are booked two weeks in advance, with planning and ideas finalized through email or phone, while electronic payment is preferred.
There are no day-of appointments and walk-ins — which account for 50 percent of tattoo business, especially in the summer — have been canceled, as the studio even discourages potential clients from coming in off the street by keeping its sign off.
During routine follow-up calls a week after a tattoo is completed, Smith and Zwetzig also ask if a client has felt sick since coming into the shop.
“Any tattoo can range from $20-$40 in supplies, just to start,” Zwetzig said. “That’s why we have a $60 minimum. We could have $30 worth of cleaning supplies, ink cartridges and then our time.”
Marked. purchased part of the space previously used by Woelfel Jewelry in December, with plans to open a retail section in the front of the store while using a back room for tattoos and another for airbrushed paintings. COVID-19 has halted the grand opening, with only the tattoo portion of the business in operation during what is typically the busiest tattoo season of the year.
During a time when people are more frequently walking down Main Street and wearing clothing to show off tattoos, Marked. is limiting who can enter the store and the frequency of customers due to cleaning procedures.
“There’s no profit in tattooing right now,” Smith said. “This would usually be the most profitable month. It would give us money to get through the winter from these months. I think we’ll start to notice in the winter because the money from the summer will keep you afloat. … We have good clients that will get us through, though.”