Elm Street Tattoo Will Celebrate Its 20th Year In Business The Same Way It Has Every Previous Anniversary — By Collecting Toys For Area Orphanages In Need.
When pressed, Dean Williams at first says that he really isn’t sure how he feels about the fact that Elm Street Tattoo, the tattoo parlor he owns and operates along with Oliver Peck, has been around for 20 years. He knows it means something — twenty years is a long time in any business — but he struggles putting exactly what it means into words.
“It’s a huge milestone for a tattoo shop — I know that,” Williams says. “It’s pretty rare for a tattoo shop to be open this long.”
Peck, for his part, isn’t necessarily any more reflective: “I think it shows that we have embraced the community and, apparently, that the community has embraced us,” he says. “I think it also shows that we’ve remained true to our mission.”
Of that much, Peck and Williams are both immediately certain: It’s through staying true to the ideals of what they describe as an “old-school” tattoo shop mentality — “the kind of place,” Peck says, “where any and all people can feel welcome, and there’s no fad-chasing” — that they’ve been able to keep their doors open for so long.
And, to be sure, 20 years is an impressive stretch. Over that time period, Deep Ellum has surged and withered and surged again to its current state. And, all the while, Elm Street Tattoo has persisted — a fact that the shop will celebrate this Saturday night at the Curtain Club in Deep Ellum, when it hosts its annual holiday party and toy drive. That the event is doubling as a 20-year anniversary bash this year is a bit of a happy accident; mostly, Peck says, it just meant moving the party to a weekend night instead of a weekday one, so as to accommodate more schedules — not that the shop’s annual party has ever had trouble drawing people out to its epic bashes. Quite the opposite, actually.
“It’s become more of the Deep Ellum holiday party than the Elm Street one,” Peck says with a laugh.
But it’s also a bit of a formal affair, where Elm Street Tattoo asks that attendees dress to impress — in order, Peck says, to make sure that the party doesn’t get too out of control.
“Initially,” he says through a laugh, “we just asked that everyone dress up because we knew that nobody would throw beer or get into a fight if they were in their nice clothes.”
But the party’s also more than that. Beyond asking that their guests adhere to a more formal dress code on this night, Elm Street also requires a $20 cover charge and a donated, unwrapped toy in order to enter through the doors. That money and those toys go to a cause that Elm Street has supported for two decades now through its connections to the Odd Fellows fraternal order — area orphanages that are often overlooked during the holiday season. That support is one that Peck and Williams are especially proud of; they guess that they’ve donated as much as $25,000 in toys each year to these orphanages, hand-delivering what the two describe as “multiple truckloads” of toys across the region themselves.
“It’s a bit of a hungover task,” Williams admits. “But we love to do it.”
And that, maybe, is the key to Elm Street’s enduring success.
“We’ve always been an optimistic shop,” Williams says. “Maybe that’s the secret.”
It helps, of course, that Peck’s profile has risen over the years too, thanks in part to his role as a judge on the long-running SpikeTV reality competition tattoo series Ink Master. Through Peck’s increased notoriety, the shop has become a destination for globe-trotting tattooers and clients alike, which means the shop’s staff gets to then relish in its favored pastime of acting as tour guides to what Peck describes as “the fun Dallas, the never-sleep Dallas.”
“We’re a household name now,” Williams says. “It’s been a lot of unrelenting hard work, but things have never been better. Business is kind of ridiculous, actually.”
Has been for a while, actually — 20-year milestones or no.
“We became a mainstay in Dallas only a few years in,” Peck counters. “We dug in, there was an open seat and we took it. When I look back on things, I realize that Dean and I are both, like, 45 years old. Twenty years is almost half of our lives. So, yeah, this is a pretty big deal for us. When it was 10 years, we were through the roof; now that it’s 20 years, it’s kind of unbelievable.”
Elm Street Tattoo’s 20th Annual Anniversary Charity Christmas Party starts at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, at the Curtain Club in Deep Ellum. Dress is formal, and entry costs $20, plus a new, unwrapped toy. Cover photo by Lauren Rushing.