Tiffany Goar knows a little bit about operating a small business, and about the struggles of making a living as an artist. That's one reason why Goar, florist and owner of Bloom Boutique, signed up to be the first client at Carthage's newest business, Elusive Body Arts tattoo studio, 511 Lyon St., owned and operated by Kenny and Dawn Moheit.
Tiffany Goar knows a little bit about operating a small business, and about the struggles of making a living as an artist.
That's one reason why Goar, florist and owner of Bloom Boutique, signed up to be the first client at Carthage's newest business, Elusive Body Arts tattoo studio, 511 Lyon St., owned and operated by Kenny and Dawn Moheit.
“I think tattoos are beautiful and a great expression of individual art,” Goar said. “I really wanted to support another local small business. It's a struggle to build a small business, especially in a community like this that has not allowed this art form for so many years, and I'm really excited that we have a progressive city council that changed the rules to allow this.”
Kenny Moheit, the artist at Elusive Body Arts, said he was just happy to be tattooing again after weeks of construction work and paperwork preparing to open his first studio.
“I still can't believe it,” Moheit said. “It feels good, but at the same time, I keep in the back of my head that it's still scary. I've got double the bills now and I'm in a town where nobody knows me and I'm trying to make a name for myself. I'm trying to make my kids proud.”
It's been a long road from apprentice tattooer to business owner for Kenny and Dawn Moheit.
First it was earning his tattooing certificate, the years of apprenticeships and working in other people's shops for Kenny Moheit while Dawn worked in other jobs to support the family.
Then there was the matter of convincing Carthage city leaders to change rules that had been enshrined in the city's code for decades.
The council's 8-1 vote on March 27 to remove tattoo parlors from the zoning area for adult entertainment and move them to general business was a big milestone.
State inspectors came in on April 3 and cleared the Moheits to open their doors on April 4.
“It's very surreal right now,” Dawn Moheit said on Wednesday, April 4. “We were very excited this morning getting ready because my husband was looking forward to being able to tattoo again. Through this process we haven't been tattooing and then me piercing. It's exciting and it's nervous, but it's also good. He's an artist to the core and construction isn't part of it, but we did what we had to do and we're happy with how everything turned out. We still have more work to do, but it's going well.”
A long road
Kenny Moheit said it has been a long road to realizing his dream of opening his own shop, starting as an apprentice tattooer in Oklahoma, then moving to different shops in other states to learn his craft.
“The first year, you basically sit in the shop and you study,” Kenny Moheit said. “I studied micro-pigmentology and I had to do 1,500 hours worth of basically volunteering in the shop. So I didn't get paid for any of that stuff.”
Kenny said Dawn worked other jobs to support their growing family while he went through his apprenticeship.
“My wife, if it wasn't for my wife, I wouldn't have been able to do it,” he said. “I got lucky and some of the artists in the studio would pay me to clean up their stations and whatnot after each tattoo. I had to basically focus on my drawing and learn how to talk to clients, pricing and all of that sort of stuff. It was fun, but there were days when it was pretty rough. Basically, for the first year I did all the grunt work.”
Moheit said he continued to study under the mentorship of Stephen Stacey, owner of Kryptonian Ink, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Stacey trained him in the business and art of tattooing as Moheit and his family moved from Oklahoma to Texas, back to Oklahoma, then to Georgia, then Missouri.
While his family stayed in Missouri, Kenny Moheit went to Portland, Oregon, then to Washington to continue his studies and working before returning to Nevada, Missouri.
Then they started searching for a place to open a studio. Kenny Moheit was thinking at first of opening in either Joplin or Springfield, but Dawn convinced him to look at Carthage.
Dawn found the building at 511 Lyon St., and convinced Kenny to look at it.
“We stopped and decided to look at it,” Kenny Moheit said. “We gave the owner a call that day and he came out and showed it to us that night or the following day. I fell in love with it, the minute I saw it I could see the shop, I could see what it was going to look like and where everything would be, and I couldn't have asked for a better building.”
Goar said she was glad to see the Moheits come into Bloom Boutique, which is about a block from the tattoo studio at 419 S. Main St.
She showed Kenny Moheit a tattoo on her ankle that she had been thinking of getting covered up.
“They came into the shop and introduced themselves and I immediately knew I liked them, I felt a connection with them,” Goar said. “Every other tattoo shop I went to, to see if they could cover this tattoo, told me it was too dark and they couldn't do it. Kenny walked through my door and I showed him the tattoo and he said we absolutely can cover that.”
Goar said its up to other business owners and the community to support these and other business owners and give them a boost during their most vulnerable time as a start-up.
“It's up to the small business owners in Carthage to open their arms to newcomers,” she said. “It gives them a head start.”
Dawn Moheit said she's glad to see her husband back doing what he loves and she's looking forward to getting her part of the business, the piercings and the retail side going strong.
“I'm excited about the future, I'm excited to continue to grow,” Dawn Moheit said. “We still have so much more that we're wanting to do. We want to have our retail and our jewelry and I plan on having two full display cases full of jewelry and gauges and just a variety of sorts for the clients I pierce and for the public.”
Kenny Moheit said he's nervous and anxious, but he's also optimistic.
“It's up to me whether I'm going to succeed or fail and that's scary,” Kenny Moheit said. “I had a lot of people in my ear, clients over the years, telling me that I needed to go out and do my own studio, and I never thought I was worthy enough to do it. I still don't think I'm worthy enough but I had to try. I wanted my kids to see me at least give it a shot, and win or lose, I can at least say I tried.”