UPTOWN — A new tattoo shop with an old-school style is coming to Uptown.
Eddy Bernotas and Bryan vonHolst, lifelong friends and tattoo artists, plan to open Rocket Tattoos at 1008 W. Argyle St. around St. Patricks Day. The pair have been buddies for over 25 years and the shop is the culmination of a long-time dream.
“This has always been the plan,” Bernotas said.
But it wasn’t an easy road. Bernotas, now 37, left tattooing after the economy crashed in 2008. Looking for some stability, he decided to join the Navy. As a Fleet Marine Force Naval Corpsman, Bernotas provided field medical care for Marines.
But he never stopped tattooing, providing Marines and Sailors with what is known around military circles as “barracks room tattoos,” unofficial ink behind closed doors (noting he would still follow best tattooing practices and create a safe environment for the folks he tattooed).
VonHolst, now 38, tattooed professionally at various shops around town and when Bernotas left the Navy, he did the same — but the duo ultimately wanted a shop of their own.
They checked out a few potential spots in Rogers Park and Lincoln Square, but those didn’t work out. Then one day after eating breakfast at Uptown’s beloved Tweet, 5020 N. Sheridan Rd., Bernotas noticed an empty storefront on Argyle Street.
Uptown was the perfect spot for the pair, they said.
“We were even more excited when we heard the Double Door was coming to Uptown and with the Uptown Theatre being renovated, everything seems to be working out,” Bernotas said.
Although both Bernotas and vonHolst have been incorporated tattoo artists, managing their own financials while tattooing in someone else’s shop, this is their first attempt at opening their own business.
Bernotas said they want the shop to have a “unique feel.”
“I want it to be like a 50’s sci movie meets The Jetsons,” he said.
Both artists specialize in American traditional tattoos. The style dates back to the 1870’s and is steeped in naval folklore.
Sailors used to get tattoos at ports throughout Southeast Asia, until the style was more popularized by artists like Norman Collins — aka “Sailor Jerry” — and Ed Hardy.
Eventually, Bernotas and vonHolst want to bring in more artists who can expand the shops ability to perform all styles of ink.
“We don’t ever want to turn people away,” he said.
In terms of red tape, Bernotas said the hardest parts are behind them. They recently received zoning board approval after having community meetings within the ward.
“Now, the hardest part is going to be hitting the pavement and getting our name out,” he said.
The pair have set their eyes on St. Patrick’s Day as their potential soft opening, just ahead of the Chicago Tattoo Convention. Then, they want to be ready for a grand opening around the last week in April — just in time for The Misfits concert (featuring original Misfits Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only) at the Allstate Arena on April 27.
For their grand opening, they’re inviting friends from a retro car club to park their hot rods in front of the shop. They’ll also be giving out brews from Haymarket Brewing, which donated some kegs for the occasion.
“We can’t wait to get started,” he said.
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