Black Rose Tattoo
Owner: Ray “Chucho” Garcia
Address: 2711 Meridian St.
Startup Date: March 18
Square Footage: 1,800 square feet
When Ray “Chucho” Garcia was 7 years old, he knew he wanted to be a tattoo artist. It seems like an odd thing to be so clear about at such a young age, but nevertheless Garcia had a vision and it began with a movie.
As a kid in the ‘70s, Garcia’s grandparents had one of the only color televisions on the block, and one day Garcia watched The Illustrated Man, which featured a man who had his entire body tattooed by a Gypsy woman.
“From that day on, I wanted to be the Gypsy,” Garcia said.
On March 18, Garcia opened Black Rose Tattoo, a tattoo shop/graphic design lab/art gallery in the Fountain District.
But Garcia is no stranger to the game.
After he moved to Los Angeles from Tucson, Ariz., in the late 1970s, Garcia began hanging out in the area’s local tattoo shops, where he watched tattoo legends like “Good Time” Charlie Cartwright and Freddy Negrete.
At age 11, Garcia completed his first tattoo — on himself. Although Garcia was never officially taught, he took raw talent and countless hours shadowing tattoo masters and was soon working full time in an L.A. tattoo shop at age 15.
Garcia moved to Bellingham in 1988 and soon thereafter went through a period when he stopped tattooing and explored other options for himself.
But in 1995, Garcia said, he just was not impressed with the work coming out of Bellingham tattoo shops — so he decided to get back in the game. For the past 10 years, he has worked at other local tattoo shops.
Garcia said that some artists’ work declines over time, but his work has only improved.
“I am really hard on myself,” Garcia said. “But right now I am at the top of my game. My work is out of control.”
The first impression upon entering Black Rose is its stark contrast to the traditional tattoo shop. There are no black-and-white checkered floors or brightly colored walls adorned with the classic tattoo bill of fare.
Instead, the shop’s hardwood floors, earth-tone walls and Asian-inspired décor is more reminiscent of a Zen sanctuary where artist, canvas and subject can come together and be completely at peace.
“This is the finest tattoo parlor in Bellingham,” Garcia said. “We’re just artists trying to support our families.”
In fact, Black Rose Tattoo is more of an artist space than your typical tattoo parlor. There is no body piercing but there is a large gallery-style space with gothic accents and huge windows at the entrance of the shop.
Garcia’s wife, Rita, is a fine artist, and Garcia said he plans to open the shop this summer for art shows that showcase local fine artists, old-school sign painting, and edgy street art.
“We want to showcase people that have something to say with their art,” Garcia said.
He said many tattoo artists charge a lot of money only to send customers off to the Internet to find an image they want permanently affixed to their bodies. But the crew at Black Rose are artists and will help you develop the tattoo of your dreams.
“We are the nicest people you will ever meet in a tattoo shop,” Garcia said. “We’ll break our backs to get you what you want.”
Owner: Brad Jones
Address: 1111 W. Holly St. Suite F
Startup Date: March 3
Square Footage: 1,100 square feet
Nearly 10 years ago, Brad Jones’ searing back pain abruptly ended a yoga class. He had strained a ligament in his thoracic spine and he felt the pain in the middle of his back radiating outward to all parts of his spine.
Afterward, Jones went through the traditional method of X-rays, MRIs and physical therapy.
“But after six months I wasn’t any better,” Jones said.
Finally one of Jones’ friends suggested Rolfing, a holistic system of soft-tissue manipulation and movement education.
“I just sort of laughed,” Jones said.
But then Jones met up with a Rolfer in Seattle and after 10 sessions, Jones said, his pain had diminished substantially.
“My back got way better and I was able to get back to my normal activities.”
Jones became more interested in Rolfing and began reading anything he could find about it. Soon thereafter, Jones quit his job and flew to Boulder, Colo., where he took his first Rolfing classes in anatomy and physiology.
Now, after Rolfing in Seattle for the past eight years, Jones has brought his practice to Bellingham.
Before his injury, Jones was a soldier in the Ford Motor Company’s sales and marketing force. But Jones had grown weary of the corporate world and his newfound interest in Rolfing led him to the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.
Rolfing was developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf. She found that changes in posture and structure could be achieved by manipulating the body’s soft-tissue system and eventually she named her work Structural Integration. Rolfing is a nickname that has evolved from patients and practitioners.
“I knew pretty quick that I was interested and wanted to do it.”
Jones said that chiropractors adjust the spine and masseurs address the soft tissue, but Rolfing manipulates the soft muscle tissue in order to affect the spine.
He said that often muscles can pull on vertebrae, leaving the body out of alignment. However, chiropractic adjustment just adjusts the spine with no attention to the muscles that led to the misalignment.
Rolfing also preaches movement education so patients can learn how to hold their bodies in order to more permanently alleviate their pain.
“It’s a slower process but a long- lasting fix,” Jones said.
Patients typically see a Rolfer for 10 sessions and then it’s up to them if they want to continue treatment.
Jones said he is a very active and athletic person. He played sports in college and said he really enjoys working with athletes and those with active lifestyles. Jones has even worked on some of Seattle’s professional athletes.
He said he has a much more mainstream approach to Rolfing than some other practitioners.
“I’m a little less ‘woo-woo’ metaphysical about it,” he said.
At the heart of Jones’ work is a deep desire to get people off the disabled list and back out on the field or slopes or wherever their adventures are.
“I like to work with people who are missing out on doing the things they love,” he said. “I like getting them back out there.”
Owners: Gretchen Bjork and Ben Knudsen
Address: 200 W. Holly St.
Startup Date: April 5
Square Footage: 3,100 square feet
Gretchen Bjork sees art in everything.
She finds beauty in the industrial design of a skyscraper or the color composition of a sunset, but to Bjork few things are more inspiring than the clean lines and unique design of a sleek, modern décor.
So Bjork, along with her husband, Ben Knudsen, decided to open Digs, a modern home and lifestyle store, which Bjork created to appeal to an urban, artistic aesthetic on the pulse of modern design.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” Bjork said. “There are not a lot of stores out there that reflect my taste.”
Bjork and Knudsen are the already successful brains behind Left Right Left footwear and accessories but the idea for Digs has been long in the making.
The couple met while attending Western Washington University in 1999. Bjork graduated a year before Knudsen so she moved to Seattle to take a job in graphic design. Over time, she got burnt out in the design game and moved to Alaska to work on a tour train that traveled between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
After graduating and then traveling the world for 13 months, Knudsen reunited with Bjork and the two jetted off to teach English in Taiwan. While there, Bjork said they began to dream of opening a store.
In Taiwan, the couple was inspired by Working House, a cozy store that specializes in odds and ends for the home.
“The merchandise just had something fun about it,” Bjork said. “(The store) made you want to make your whole world fun.”
The Digs showroom is a flurry of home design inspiration. Busy wall patterns, décor items and textured flooring options cascade into separate living room and bedroom showcases that feature possible arrangements for your home.
And no matter what the home-design puzzle, Digs has some interesting pieces to help everything come together. The showcases present high-art, high-design furnishings that are works of art as much as they are functional.
But it’s not all about sleek, modern furniture.
Bjork and Knudsen would also like to use their store as an opportunity to foster more community within Bellingham’s design scene. Bjork compared her vision to art and design events held on the first Thursday of every month in Seattle, when galleries, designers and architects open their doors to the public.
“I think we would really be interested in hosting design-related, eco-consciousness-related classes or lectures,” she said.
In the meantime, Bjork and Knudsen are focused on making their second commercial venture a success. Bjork said they would soon have bridal and baby registries plus a full-inventory Web site by the end of the year.
The business’ location on the corner of Holly and Commercial streets also has Bjork excited. She said she loves its central location, huge windows, exposed brick and the endless foot traffic.
“I would not have guessed we would have so many people walking in here just to admire the design of some of these chairs,” Bjork said. “The design-heads are really coming out of the woodwork.”