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How Two N.H. Tattoo Shops Survived The Pandemic

tattoo artist, benjamin Jenness
Samantha Coetzee
Benjamin Jenness sits in his studio in Durham.

The hum of machines is filling New Hampshire tattoo shops since the slowing of the pandemic. They’ve been busy, but now with COVID-19 cases on the rise, the industry is taking extra precautions.

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Many other kinds of businesses are open at full capacity with limited protocols, but tattoo artists say they’re in unique positions. There’s no way for them to do their job and maintain a social distance.

tattoo shop covid safety
Samantha Coetzee
Summer's End is taking extra precaution to protect its' staff and clientele from the Delta Variant.

Alysan Polito, tattoo apprentice at New InkLand Tattoo in Manchester, says her shop has been seeing a lot of clients since restrictions have eased.

“We're always pretty busy, but definitely when the stimulus checks hit it was crazy busy and it remains pretty busy,” she says. “I think some people are still scared of COVID and some people have to reschedule because they might have gotten it.”

Benjamin Jenness, co-owner of Summer’s End tattoo studio in Durham, says the shop is well-booked for the upcoming months and that his clients haven’t seemed worried about coming into the studio. But he says he’s still worried about keeping himself and his coworkers safe.

“How do we trust that our clients have our best interests at heart?” Jenness asks. “When are they going to be honest with us and tell us that they have been feeling ill? You know, we need to protect ourselves as well.”

tattoo social distancing
Samantha Coetzee
Co-owner Benjamin Jenness built these dividers to encourage social distancing.

Summer’s End was hit hard by the pandemic. After closing over two months, when they were able to reopen, it was hard to find the necessary PPE to stay in business.

“There are many days where I would spend an entire day just trying to find enough paper towels to be open,” Jenness says. “It was just hard to get things on top of the stress of wondering, do people want to still come in and sit inside my personal bubble for three, four or five hours at a time?”

The pandemic also had an unexpected consequence on Jenness. He says the only topic his clients wanted to discuss with him was the pandemic. It took an emotional toll.

“It takes a lot to get out of bed in the morning knowing that that's what you're going to talk about all day,” he says. “Usually I like to talk about what's new in the movie theaters, or someone went on a cool vacation to the coast of Maine or something.”

“That just wasn't available for the last year and a half.”

Samantha Coetzee joined the NHPR team in 2020 as a weekend Board Operator and is now NHPR’s News Intern. A senior journalism major at the University of New Hampshire and New Hampshire native, Samantha is also the General Manager of WUNH, UNH’s student-run radio station.

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