Michael Donato has been the owner of in Pleasantville for eight years, with additional experience in the financial end of the business prior to the shop’s opening. Donato has much to say on the specifics of the business and what prompts people to choose tattoos as a form of self expression.
What is the most popular tattoo? Apparently, there isn’t one.
“This business has changed drastically over the years, tattoos are completely random today,” said Donato.
Although customers can choose from a wide array of diverse artwork displayed on the walls–including original designs by Donato–more than 80 percent of the shop's patrons opt for an original.
Inspired by his father who fought in the Korean War and sported a tattoo himself, Donato’s father, whom he described as a “gentle giant,” accompanied him to a shop where he received his first tattoo.
“There was dignity behind it,” Donato recalled.
The design preference should be a very personal one, Donato noted, and shouldn’t be done “to be cool.” Rather, careful thought should be a prerequisite before undergoing the procedure.
“It should be what it means, personally, for you, not what it means to the general public,” Donato stated.
Donato has several tattoos himself, but that are not generally visible–for a reason: Donato’s are a statement about himself, not a statement for others.
The design choice isn’t the only change over the years–gender and age plays a new role.
There is no age limit anymore.
“We have people come in that are easily in their seventies,” revealed Donato.
And as Tony Fasce, Donato’s chief artist added, “We had a woman come in recently who was in her 80s."
Her tattoo of choice? A silhouette of her cat.
Preferences in acquiring body art can be gender driven, too.
Donato explained whereas women opting for tattoos tend to be emotionally driven by, perhaps by a major event in their lives, men are motivated by their psyche, adding, “It’s a manly thing.”
Although almost everyday an underage–customers need to be 18-years-old–teen enters the shop, nine times out of ten they are with a parent who approves the procedure. (According to New York State law, a person under the age of 18 cannot get a tattoo).
Donato said his conscious and morality are important to him, and he therefore never makes an exception to the age rule, even if it means losing a poential customer. Donato and team are very strict about catering to underage clientele require everyone to provide proper identification prior to performing piercings or giving tattoos.
“Almost every other shop will do it without asking for ID; except for me, it’s the law," he said.
There were other forces compelling to Donato to open his own business. After years of frequent exposure to inconsistent artwork, lack of respect for customers and shop owners solely motivated by financial gain, Donato decided it was time to open his own place.
When asked about the greatest public misconceptions of tattoos, Donato quickly responded—“That the inks are toxic. A legitimate business does not cut corners.”
The inks, which used to be powdered pigment and then mixed by hand, are now commercially produced, homogenous and safe for public use. Another misconception? That tattoos convey a “biker, bad guy image,” said Donato.
In fact, Donato pointed out, women represent 60 percent of his clientele.
Donato also indicated although tattooing has become more mainstream, “There is still a stigma attached. People tend to put you in a particular category if they see you have a tattoo.”
Do people ever have second thoughts? Not only have customers had last minute changes of heart, one customer actually passed out upon hearing the buzz of the needle.
Addressing an inquiry regarding the degree of pain experienced during tattooing, Donato responded, “If people believe the pain is intolerable then it becomes so. It’s more annoying than painful…it’s equivalent to repeatedly rubbing a paper towel on your arm.”
Anything else prospective tattoo recipients should know? Although many counties in New York State regulate tattoo shops, there are no official standards for Westchester. This was actually another driving force for Donato to open his shop—“morality.”
Donato stated, “Bad shops give the business a bad name when they cut corners and take chances,” citing tattooing two people in the same room as an example.
Donato prides himself on his business’s cleanliness and respect for the customer, even ensuring he and Fasce remain certified in blood borne pathogen prevention.
Donato’s final advice?
“Don’t do it to be cool or tough, do it for yourself.”