We have a lively debate happening in Alton right now; whether to allow local businessman/tattoo artist Chris Hinkle to set up shop (Piasa Body Arts) down on Broadway. Some opponents have made this into a morality issue, citing fears that once a tattoo studio opens it’s doors, gritty peep shows and strip clubs will follow. Our neighbor, the city of Edwardsville has multiple tattoo studios, two of which are within sight of Madison County Courthouse, 222 Artisan Bakery, Cleveland Heath restaurant, and the Goshen Farmers Market, none of which involve striptease.
Some opponents claim that the neighborhood Chris Hinkle wants to open his studio is the “high end arts district”. If this so called arts district is in the cards it wouldn’t magically spring up overnight. Arts districts grow incrementally over time, spurred initially by the arrival of artists on the scene. Chris Hinkle is the first artist to arrive, and yet there’s a cruel irony that the advocates of an arts district would try to keep him out.
From an economic standpoint, all arguments can be made in support of Piasa Body Arts. An empty building on Broadway, now generating no revenue, will be turned into a thriving business, contributing to our local economy. Tattoo studios are within the top ten fastest growing retail businesses in America; it’s a multi BILLION dollar industry. Over 45 million Americans are “inked”, including 40% of those aged 20-40; something to consider in terms of attracting a younger audience to Broadway.
Those supporting Piasa Body Arts outnumber those opposed. Supporters have actively contacted City Council members, who will vote on this issue June 24th.
If there’s been a noteworthy voice in this ongoing tattoo debate, it would have to be Alderman Charlie Brake, who uttered these words, “I listened to the people who called me in support of the tattoo shop”. With his sincere statement, Mr. Brake has reminded us what our City, and our elected representatives, are supposed to do; listen to, and represent the voice of the people. The people of Alton are speaking. Will City Hall listen?
Monica Mason, Alton
Community: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests. -Merriam Webster; 2015; internet edition.
In 2008, my husband started out on an adventure. When he came to me and proposed the idea of opening his own business, I was beyond nervous, knowing the trials and tribulations of being your own boss.
Despite my mild protests, my husband went along the path of his own “American Dream” and established his business that year. He physically remodeled the location, studied business administration, and brushed up on local and state rules and regulations for his industry. He scoured the country (yes, country!) in search of individuals specific to his trade and with the same staunch work ethic that he is so well known for. He started his business to open the door from St. Louis to our side of the river, because I refused to live anywhere but in my own community.
We started our family the very next year. Our white picket fence was installed and we were officially tied, by business and family, to this community, which has always been so important to me.
Our story is typical - small business owner, hard-working, raising children, the list goes on. The difference in our story is the way some perceive our business. Had Chris opened a restaurant, book store, or bicycle repair shop, we would have the freedom to move about our community and expand our business in any area we chose. However, my husband is an artist, and the type of artwork he specializes in apparently still has some type of stigma in our small river town.
This letter is not written to cast blame or anger at anyone who opposes a tattoo gallery in the downtown area. It is written to ask how different this business is from anyone else’s. Even though we may disagree on some things, can we not agree that our dreams and goals for our community are not so different after all?
Cody Hinkle, Alton
Chad and Felicia of Mississippi Mud Pottery, as full time, self-employed, working artisans embrace the opportunity that Grand Piasa Body Art could be a part of Broadway. It is frustrating that our city might deny a legitimate business. We need businesses like Grand Piasa Body Art to generate interest and revenue. We need youthful business owners and less vacancy on our street. Already since the recent addition of the fudge shop, we have seen increased foot traffic. Mississippi Mud and other businesses will benefit as visitors have more reasons to visit Broadway and return to Broadway. Making the situation even worse is the proposal to cut Alton Main Streets funding 100%. Sara McGibany, along with Alton Main Street, are vital and active in connecting people and businesses with possibilities available on Broadway/Downtown. They perform an important role and are excellent leaders and ambassadors for Alton. Alton Main Street seen as non-essential is heartbreaking.
Felicia Breen, Alton
Being a fan of air and water, I like them both to be clean. In fact, I just like the sound of the phrase clean energy. How can anyone be opposed to that idea? Energy is a part of our everyday life, but so many people have a rather nonchalant attitude about energy in general. We’re all accustomed to flipping a switch and having the luxury of electricity at our fingertips. Many don’t care where the power comes from, as long as it’s available. For others, like myself, who have the opinion that clean energy is good energy, it’s puzzling that others don’t embrace the idea.
It’s been around for a while now, with solar and wind generation gaining in popularity and coming down in price. All we need to do is get the word out in a convincing and natural way. Mother Nature has provided us with the basic materials needed the sun, wind and water — available in all types of climates. There’s no such thing as a solar cleanup or a wind pipeline spill or leak. How can people not be advocates? It seems natural that if we can produce energy that doesn’t pollute, we should embrace it.
This area has already been a big player in the energy business. Several generations ago, we were covered in woods that were used as the primary source for heating. Then came coal, which we had a huge amount of, perhaps hundreds of small family mines, and many larger mines employing thousands. That worked well for a long time and other than black lung disease, cave-ins, and the total loss and destruction of land and mountaintops, choking the skies with pollution and water with toxins, it worked great. Plus storage was dirty, cumbersome and often inconvenient, but it was deemed cheaper and plentiful.
Then came oil, and did we welcome it with open arms. In fact, many people don’t realize what a major influence it has been to our economy. We at one time had three refineries and the industry provided thousands of jobs for a long time.
Now we have a viable, workable, cost-efficient alternative that of course being clean energy will also provide thousands of good-paying jobs (wind turbines, solar panels, all the auxiliary parts and services that go with buildup and maintenance).
We’ve already made some transitions. The next logical step would be to push forward with a mass expansion of clean energy programs. There’s a Clean Jobs Bill in Illinois right now that will help us move forward; it’s House Bill 2607 and Senate Bill 1485. More jobs, more opportunity, and a way forward to a healthier and happier energy plan.
Harold Dailey, Wood River