DALTON -- Brian and Eiko Brown have made their mark on the town of Dalton.

Two months ago, the couple opened up Red-Karpet Tattoo the first tattoo parlor to ever operate in the town, which has established its first-ever tattoo parlor regulations.

The Browns moved to Dalton from San Francisco about a year ago. Brian Brown, a native, came back to be with his mother after his brother passed way. Eiko Brown grew up in Mei Prefecture, Japan. They opened their business in late November at 8 Depot St.

"I like Dalton; it's a stylish little town. I feel something like this would be good for it," said Brian Brown, a lifelong artist who's been doing tattoos for about 12 years. He's lost track of how many tattoos he has.

The 38-year-old ban on tattooing in Massachusetts by anyone other than physicians was lifted in late 2000, when a Superior Court Judge ruled that the ban violated the right to free speech. Though tattoo parlors had since opened in Pittsfield, none had ever established in Dalton.

The Browns starting working with the Dalton Board of Health in August to establish the town's first-ever regulations for operating a tattoo parlor, adapting the state and Pittsfield regulations to fit Dalton.

"We felt that some of the state and Pittsfield regulations were repetitive," said Drew Finn, co-chairman of the Dalton Board of Health.

Unlike in Pittsfield, Dalton tattoo artists are not required to take classes at Berkshire Community College, Finn said.


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And Dalton parlors will use disposable rags and cloths instead of reusable ones. Also, Dalton's new tattoo parlor regulations don't allow skin-graphing.

"We wanted to make sure that it was safe for all our residents," Finn said. "I think a tattoo parlor here is fine. I won't be using it, but if I felt so inclined to do so, I'd feel fine."

While many tattoo parlors might line their walls with designs to choose from, those are absent in Red-Karpet because "it's not a pick-off-the-walls place; everything's fully custom," according to Brian Brown.

"I don't want do all the small walk-in things," he said. "I want to keep it refined."

He added that clients almost never get inked the first time they come in. Instead, they first have a consultation with Brown, presenting him with an art concept and where on the body they would like it. Then, an appointment to apply needle to skin is made.

"If a guy wants a dragon to represent him protecting his children, I do a more aggressive, fierce dragon whipping around in a lot of angles and hair blowing back and holding the images he's protecting," Brown said.

Red-Karpet will not ink anyone under 18, even with parental consent, and it only do tattoos -- no piercings, scarification or skin-braiding.

The parlor's decorations inside are ornate, Baroque-style fixtures, from mirrors to a small chandelier hanging from the ceiling, with techno and rock music playing from an iPod deck.

"We don't want to make it a hood-rat gathering store," Eiko Brown said. "We want to make everyone feel welcome."

Brian Brown is the only one licensed at Red-Karpet to do tattoos. He said that Red-Karpet Tattoo has inked about 25 different clients, some appointments lasting anywhere from six to eight hours.

One notable clientele has come from the Dalton Police Department. Officer Jim Scace had his tattoo of Hobbes from the "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip covered up into a tribute to his service in the Marine Corps.

"This tattoo is different than my initial idea, but it's something we came up with together," Scace said. "[Brown is] quite the artist."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse.