Justin Stuart

Friday, October 5, 2007 | 3:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:02 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Justin Stuart is a co-owner of the new Ninth Street Tattoo parlor. It is Stuart's second business.

Small-business owner Justin Stuart’s love affair with body art began in early adulthood. By his mid-20s, he’d collected a black tribal design on his left biceps, a nautical star on his right biceps and a sun flanked by tribal swirls spanning his upper back.

But none of the tattoos are visible unless he rolls up his sleeves or takes off his shirt, and that wasn’t an accident.

During the years he worked to build his plumbing business, Stuart wanted to be seen as a professional by the bankers and insurance companies he was establishing relationships with. He knew tattoos would detract from that image.

“It’s hard to get people to believe in you when you’re covered in tattoos,” he says.

Things are different now. With a partner, Stuart has opened a second business, and he’s pretty certain visible body art won’t be an issue this time around: On Sept. 20, 9th Street Tattoo opened its doors to the public.

At the helm of two small businesses, he finally feels ready to take his body art a step further. He has plans for a three-quarter-sleeve tattoo on his right arm to incorporate the nautical star and tribal design themes of his current tattoos.

The decision seems to symbolize his arrival as a respected business owner in the community.

“In a way, it’s a statement,” Stuart says, “I wouldn’t have done it two years ago, but I’ve established myself. I feel comfortable enough now because of the relationships I’ve created.”

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