Make us your home page

Brandon mall among those welcoming tattoo artists, Botox injection services and others

Clay Montgomery, left, 37, and Stephen “Steeve” Cannon, 39, owners of Atomic Tattoos, are opening a 14th location of their Largo-based chain at Westfield Brandon.


Clay Montgomery, left, 37, and Stephen “Steeve” Cannon, 39, owners of Atomic Tattoos, are opening a 14th location of their Largo-based chain at Westfield Brandon.

The surprising news is less that Atomic Tattoos and Body Piercing will open a shop in Westfield Brandon later this month. It's that Brandon is the third enclosed mall in the Tampa Bay area to sign tattoo salons that once were taboo.

The recession has hit retailing particularly hard, so malls are waving in stores they once spurned.

"As soon as it became evident malls were willing to have tattoo artists, we wanted to get there before somebody else did," said Steve Cannon, 39, who signs his artistry as two-E "Steeve" to stand out and is working on another mall deal in Clearwater.

Once ear-piercing was about all malls offered in the way of body art and as close as they got to medical procedures. Now tattoo boutiques charge $50 a pop to permanently color a dime-sized star on your wrist or thousands to make a canvas of your entire back. At WestShore Plaza, White Now offers on-site teeth whitening while another kiosk does eyebrow weaving. At International Plaza, the new Venus Mini Med Spa is getting $200 in the average transaction for Botox or collagen injections or Latisse to grow eyelashes.

Venus turned to malls after people balked at signing up for appointments at a standard spa. They hired nurse practitioners to write prescriptions, cater to walk-ins and charge 30 percent less than doctor clinics.

"Women choose treatments on price, the salon experience and convenience," said Bill Clarke, Venus managing partner. "We get Botox parties where two friends watch and learn. So far, 71 percent of our customers never had a treatment."

The mall trend is driven by recession desperation as stores close and rents tied to a percentage of sales decrease. Opening to new businesses eager to pay a premium for exposure to 20,000 daily shoppers helped keep the local mall vacancy rate at 3.9 percent. That's half the overall shopping center vacancy rate.

"But malls are competing for a smaller pool of tenants," said Adrian Ponsen, real estate economist with CoStar's Property and Portfolio Research unit. "With 10 million square feet of new retail space built in the bay area since 2003, they must differentiate."

"We're stepping outside the box to find new customers," said Laurie Goldman, the Westfield Brandon manager who signed Fighters Warehouse, which sells martial arts gear.

It's not the first time malls have evolved. Malls like WestShore had supermarkets until learning grocery shoppers don't linger. In the 1970s, lawyers rented mall space until comics made fun of "mall lawyers."

By the late 1990s, fine dining became part of a mall formula that had boasted a food court and Ruby Tuesday as its most sophisticated culinary offerings.

The next chapter of this evolution appears headed in a new direction.

Largo-based Atomic, which generated $3.2 million in revenue from 13 salonlike locations in 2008, cleaned up for the mall. The company hired a department store designer and poured $110,000 into custom cabinets for an industrial chic space complete with exposed duct work and polished concrete floor.

Inside, six tattoo artists work hidden from passing shoppers, and they won't do any body piercing below the waist. The store will sell popular script T-shirts and accessories celebrating the tattoo lifestyle.

A third of adults younger than 40 have a tattoo. But the 16 percent of all adults who sport one slipped to 14 percent in 2008, according to Harris Interactive. And people ages 18 to 24, known mall rats, are least likely (9 percent).

Clay Montgomery, Atomic's 37-year-old co-owner, sees tattoos as mainstream enough for the mall.

"TV shows like Miami Ink brought tattoo artists right into the home," he said. "It's taken the mystery out of what we do and shown how people behave during the experience."

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Brandon mall among those welcoming tattoo artists, Botox injection services and others 11/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 7:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]