Tattoo parlor knocking on Canton’s door prompts likely repeal of 30-year-old ban

fr tattooCruso native Nathan Poston wants to open a tattoo parlor in Canton — the first in that town since at least the 1980s — but first must convince town fathers to change the law.

Since 1984, tattooing in Canton has been outlawed. The Canton Board of Aldermen back then not only made operating a tattoo parlor within town limits illegal but also the act of performing tattoos.

Current alderman Jimmy Flynn was the town clerk at the time but does not recall any specific reason for the ordinance.

“The board simply decided they didn’t want to do that,” Flynn said. “Best memory, it was just something they did.”

But, today, society is more accepting of body art as tattoos have become increasingly common.

“Some of the older people will probably be critical of it, but it’s a younger thing now,” said Alderman Ed Underwood. “They are everywhere now.”

Despite spending time in the armed forces, Underwood said he never got a tattoo because it just wasn’t something he wanted. However, he added, his son and daughter-in-law both have tattoos.

Canton’s aldermen are now poised to reconsider the nearly 30-year-old ordinance banning tattoo parlors.

“We are not opposed to changing the law to allow his business,” said Alderman Kenneth Holland. “He is going to operate a very upscale business.”

That seems to be one reason why the aldermen are not leery of Poston’s proposition when he addressed to the town board last week. In otherwords, Poston did not present himself as a ruffian or hoodlum.

“He came in, and he was well-dressed, well-groomed, spoke well,” Underwood said. “He’d done his homework.”

Poston presented a business plan to the board of aldermen detailing exactly what he hoped to do. In addition to acting as a tattoo parlor, the business, called Images for the Blind, will feature art, furniture and other merchandise. Poston, 25, described it as more of an art gallery.

Items displayed for sale at the parlor will include sculptures, paintings, jewelry, T-shirts, mugs, hats and posters. Poston will not do piercings.

Poston has painted and sculpted since he was young and fairly recently began crafting jewelry from recycled metal but never had a penchant for tattooing until he moved to New York about four years ago.

“I never really wanted to do tattoos when growing up. I wanted to be more of a fine artist,” Poston said.

But, after tattooing for the past four years, Poston said he sees how tattoos have slowly become accepted as a form of art. When Poston moved back to his hometown last winter, he decided he wanted to open up the gallery.

Before asking the board of alderman to change the ordinance, Poston worked with the North Carolina Rural Center and the Small Business Center at Haywood Community College to create his business plan and learn more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

“They really have pushed me forward,” Poston said. “They got me to the right people.”

Although he doesn’t have a specific location in mind to set up his shop, Poston hopes to be environmentally friendly by harnessing power from solar panels he plans to install on the roof. His stepfather is an electrician and will help oversee the project, Poston stated in his plan. If all goes well, he said he wants to be open by early next year.

However, he must still wait and see if the town board of aldermen repeals the current ordinance banning tattooing. The board has sent the matter onto its planning board to see what zoning regulations a tattoo parlor would fall under.

“The tattoo parlor itself, as long as it meets all the health department standards, I would not have a problem with it in certain zones,” Flynn said.

Once it hears back from the planning board, the town will host a public hearing and then the board will vote on whether to undo the tattoo ban. However, the vote seems to be a mere formality at this point with the alderman already expressing support for the new business.

“He is not going to let it be a hang out for bad people and all that,” Underwood said. “Hopefully, it will be another successful business in town.”

Holland said he did not think people would be outraged if a tattoo parlor like the one Poston has proposed moved into town.

“Most people who live in Canton like myself are happy to see any business coming into the downtown area,” Holland said. “I want to see Canton come back the way it was.”

The aldermen said while there are some types of business that would be a bad fit for Canton, but did not see a reason to keep Poston’s out.

The likely repeal of the current ban on tattooing had Underwood reminiscing about the time before residents could buy beer in Canton.

“Times are changing,” Underwood said. “I was surprised Canton ever got beer in the stores.”

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