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TATTOO SHOP GETS GRUDGING STAMP OF APPROVAL

The dry cleaners closed. The deli is relocating. And the doughnut shop is history.

Moving into one of the many vacant stores in this Main Street shopping plaza is the first tattoo parlor in Clarence.

The town with the custom-built dream houses and quaint country setting is also offering a chance to get a rose on your hip or "I love Mom" on your arm.

The Town Board reluctantly approved the project last week.

"They tried everything to keep us out," said Brenda Lewis, the soon-to-be owner of Custom Ink Tattoo Gallery, 8591 Main St. "They didn't want us here."

Officials initially told her that the town's ordinance restricting adult businesses would not allow a tattoo parlor in a shopping center. The Clarence law restricts businesses such as topless bars, massage parlors and X-rated book and video stores to industrial areas.

But at the meeting, the town attorney said the ordinance did not cover tattooing.

While most of the Town Board wasn't crazy about an upscale town getting a tattoo parlor, only Councilman John F. Love voted against the project.

"I just didn't think it was an appropriate location. Go to the Eastern Hills Mall. What are you going to attract to the plaza? What's going to go in next to a tattoo shop?" he said.

Currently a bar and deli sit on either side of the tattoo parlor's future location. A doughnut store and antique shop are now both vacant. After the deli moves down the road, that will leave a liquor store, bar and Kung Fu/kick boxing center in the plaza.

"Considering there's no other tattoo shop in Clarence, Williamsville or Amherst, I think it's a good opportunity," Ms. Lewis said.

But some nearby businesses weren't thrilled to learn about the tattoo shop.

"Oh, really? Nobody is aware of it," said Bharati Patel, whose husband's dermatology practice is across the street. "I don't know how it's going to work out."

The manager of the bar directly next to the tattoo shop, the Harris Hill Inn, declined to comment on his new neighbor.

But Ms. Lewis said fears about the kind of customers her tattoo parlor will attract are unfounded.

For five years, she and her brother have run a shop in Medina that will close once the new store opens. They even showed the Town Board a letter from the Medina police chief saying there had been no problems with the shop.

Other towns -- some more rural than Clarence -- have had good experiences with tattoo parlors coming to town.

Take KrazyK's in the Village of Alden. It opened last November in an office building housing a travel agency and sits next to the Alden Pharmacy.

"No one had a problem with me opening the shop," said owner Karen Budziszewski. "I'm sure there were a lot of skeptics, but no one said a word. It's not just crazy bikers that have tattoos anymore; it's anyone from your next-door neighbor to your doctor."

So far, the business is doing well, and there haven't been any complaints.

"There were no problems when she came in, and I haven't heard anything since," said Joseph Czechowski, the village building inspector.

If renovations on the Clarence store go as planned, Custom Ink should open in October.

Ms. Lewis said most of her customers are first-timers between 30 and 55. She stressed to the Town Board that customers must be 18 to get a tattoo. Parents can't give permission for a minor.

"And we check," she told officials.

The store would be open from noon to 10 p.m. or from 1 to 9 p.m.

"Most people don't like getting tattoos at 8 in the morning," she explained.

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