They ink murals. Their canvas–whether skin or the Macon community at large–is filled with bursts of color and life by the time they’re done.
Founded in 2012, Cherry Street Ink is a downtown tattoo and piercing parlor. Stephen Dunn, or Structure as he’s called, is one of the shop’s part owners. He came to Georgia in 1995 from Massachusetts after his mother moved down here.
Dunn said he started DJ’ing and began working on his tattoo apprenticeship around 1999 or 2000. While DJ’ing, Dunn met Alex Webb and his partner, Jessica Carroll. Webb’s club, Reaction, hosted Dunn, and Carroll met Dunn at Club Traxx.
A few years later, Carroll took her younger sister to get her belly button pierced for her 18th birthday and Dunn was the piercer.
“We kept in contact from that point on,” Carroll said. Eventually, the pair settled down together.
Dunn wanted something more, and he had an idea. He got together with Carroll and Webb to lay the groundwork for their own business.
“I had the feeling it was time,” Dunn said.
There were doubts about a tattoo parlor setting up shop downtown. But, Cherry Street Ink thrived.
“Downtown is a lot of old money,” Dunn said. “We went for that upscale look.”
The shop prides itself on quality work and cleanliness. All employees that pierce or tattoo are licensed with the Health Department and have blood-born pathogen certificates. They are also trained in first aid and CPR.
All equipment undergoes autoclave testing to ensure the tools are sterilized correctly.
“It’s cleaner than most doctor’s offices,” Dunn said.
Dunn is also working with the Health Department to set guidelines and regulations for piercings. Dunn says the Health Department isn’t familiar with this field, and he wanted to make the process safer for the general public.
“We already have to work with [them],” he said. “Instead of pushing them away, we open-armed them.”
Dunn also refuses to do certain piercings–such as cheek piercings–because they are dangerous.
“We don’t just want your money. We want the reputation that comes with it. We want you to feel comfortable and keep coming here,” Dunn said.
That reputation has helped Cherry Street Ink. Dunn says large portions of his clientele are Mercer students.
“When Mercer goes on their breaks, we see a 30 to 40 percent drop in our business,” Dunn said.
Parents also bring in their children above the age of five to get pierced regularly, according to Dunn.
“Nobody else does that,” Dunn said. “Everybody deserves to be pierced in a safe and sterile environment instead of [a place] where you have someone that basically watched a video piercing your child.”
Cherry Street Ink also does more than tattoo and pierce.
“We try to get involved in people’s lives,” Dunn said.
They are involved in community outreach projects such as Ink4Autism and breast cancer awareness events which provides charities with a percentage of the shop’s profits. Cherry Street Ink also supports the local fraternal order of police with their Backpacks for Kids drive. In addition, Cherry Street Ink finds a family in need and buys gifts for the children every Christmas.
“We love our community and look for opportunities to help,” Carroll said. “These are things we do every chance we get.”
The marks Cherry Street Ink leaves on Macon are hard to ignore. The parlor has done well, despite the doubts surround the store’s opening.
“We’re here for good,” Dunn said. “This is what we’re doing.”