Three to five years ago, Zach Volatile tried to open a tattoo shop in his hometown of Arbutus.
Faced with zoning laws that restrict where tattoo shops can open, Volatile approached what was then called the Arbutus Business and Professional Association, to discuss getting an exception that would allow him to open in the central Arbutus business district. His request, he said, was met with “nothing but resistance.”
This year, Volatile — “a little older, a little wiser, with a little bit more money” — decided to try again.
He hired a zoning lawyer, spoke to business owners and proposed a new location for his tattoo shop: on Leeds Avenue, just inside the Beltway.
This time, it worked. With the blessing of the business association, Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the area, is poised to introduce a bill at Monday’s County Council legislative session that would allow Volatile to open his tattoo shop.
The bill is likely to be approved — the County Council usually approves specific local requests like Quirk’s as a courtesy to the area’s representative.
“The location he had picked out to house the business, we supported that location,” said Bettina Tebo, president of the Greater Arbutus Business Association, which replaced the previous association in 2017. “Though we don’t think it would be a good fit for right along East Drive, it’s certainly appropriate for Leeds.” The location would neighbor Arbutus Veterinary Hospital.
The legislation was drafted with the specific location in mind, said Pete Kriscumas, an aide in Quirk’s office.
It would amend the zoning regulations to allow a tattoo and body piercing shop in a “business local” zone, but only in the Arbutus Commercial Revitalization District, within 350 feet of I-695, and in an area immediately adjacent to an industrial zone.
Kriscumas said Quirk is proposing the bill because the business association and the community appear to support the move. He pointed to a poll in an Arbutus Facebook group in which close to 100 people said they would support a tattoo shop in that location, and only one person objected.
“We live and die by: If the community and business association supports it, we’ll do anything to support them,” Kriscumas said.
If the bill passes, Volatile said he will immediately move into the space at 4809 Leeds Ave., and be ready to open in about three to four weeks. His shop, he said, would offer walk-in and custom tattoos as well as piercings.
Volatile’s shop, which he hopes to name Empire Tattoo, would be the first in Arbutus.
Volatile said he suspected much of the original opposition to his shop was an older generation’s view of tattoos as associated with “sailors, bikers, gangs and outlaws.”
“As a whole, right now, the community is on my side because it’s a new generation,” he said, noting that younger people now view tattoos as an “art form.”
Volatile, 32, who owns Blvd. Tattoo in Jessup and plans to continue to operate it after opening the Arbutus shop, said as ideas surrounding tattoos change, so is his clientele.
“It used to be a very specific person,” Volatile said. “Now I have clients that are soccer moms, I have clients that are lawyers, I have clients that are doctors.”
Tebo said that this time around she has not heard any opposition to the tattoo shop opening, adding that a local businessman with a proven track record of opening a successful business will further the association’s goal to revitalize Arbutus.
“Times have changed,” Tebo said. “Peoples’ attitudes are different, and this is a viable business in 2018 … it doesn’t have the same connotation that it did 20 or 30 years ago.”