Elm Street Tattoo

Elm Street Tattoo
2811 Elm St.
Dallas, TX

Established: 1996
Artists: Oliver Peck, Dean Williams, Mark Galvan, Chris Erickson, Joe Radnick, Bubba
In 1990, tattooer Oliver Peck made the decision to never again wear a pair of shoes that wasn’t red. “It’s sort of an LSD-induced pact I made with myself,” Peck explains from the floor of Elm Street Tattoo, which he opened with partner Dean Williams in 1996.

In the 12 years since Elm Street opened its doors, Peck has worn out a closet full of red shoes (“I still have them all. I can go count them for you,” he jokes) even if the look and feel of the shop haven’t changed much. “From the beginning, we wanted to open a really traditional shop. We weren’t interested in the new, studio-type place,” Peck explains. With his growing collection of dice, more Americana on the walls than the local T.G.I. Friday’s, and a skateboard ramp built onto the counter, there’s no mistaking Elm Street for anything other than a tattoo shop.

Peck’s other workspace is vastly different—a renovated race-car trailer. The mobile shop was built with two full-service tattoo stations and travels as part of the annual Vans Warped Tour, providing ink to bands such as MxPx and The Bronx. As challenging as tattooing in a mobile shop sounds, Peck doesn’t mind it. “We built it ourselves, so we knew what we were getting into. But it definitely wasn’t cheap,” he says, laughing. And Peck’s association with the tour and his life-long love of skateboarding landed him his own line of signature versions of the classic Vans slip-on featuring his artwork.

While the boss is out tattooing sweaty rockers all summer, Elm Street is left in the hands of its roster of talented artists. The lineup includes Dean Williams, Mark Galvan, Chris Erickson, Joe Radnick, and a man known only as Bubba. While their collective experience reaches into the decades and their specialties differ, they all share one trait. “We only hire people that go with the flow,” Peck explains. “You spend so much of your lives with these people, they have to be personable. The shop is a place for our friends and people in the hood to come hang out.”

Hanging out includes huge events like Elm Street’s annual charity holiday party, which draws up to 800 of the crew’s closest friends, dressed to the nines and toting a toy to donate. “We used to give them all to the toy distribution centers, but they couldn’t handle all of the toys. I called up the city, and they gave me lists of needy kids. The day after the party, all of our friends sort the toys, load them into trucks, and deliver them to the kids. It’s awesome.”

Playing tattooed Santa Claus is just one of the entries on Elm Street’s busy calendar. For the past 15 years, customers have been lining up on Friday the 13th to get a “13” tattoo for only 13 bucks. Last year, Peck set the world record for the most tattoos given in 24 hours. “I did 415,” he says humbly. “I was kind of out of it by the end, but I wasn’t miserable. My hand hurt a lot the next day.”

Fast and cheap are applicable at Elm Street only on Friday the 13th, though. Peck and his staff like to take tattooing back to a time before the biker era. “In the ’30s and ’40s, during the deco era, tattooing was a serious career and there was an appreciation of art. In the ’60s and ’70s, a lot of that got lost to the bikers and the bums,” Peck explains. “In the past 20 years people have started seeing the art again.”

A lot has changed since then for tattooing, especially in Texas, where the first tattoo regulations fell under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug
Administration. “They just wanted to make sure there was hot water in the sink to wash the dishes. We don’t even have dishes.” Other troublesome legislation even caused some local Dallas shops to shut their doors. “The mayor passed a legislation requiring tattoo shops and titty bars to get a special-use permit, but the catch was that there could only be one permit every 300 feet. They closed down three shops right in this hood,” Oliver points out.

But neither legal bullshit nor his divorce from fellow tattooer Kat Von D have gotten in the way of Peck’s overall goal, which is to leave people with a tattoo they love. “I don’t like when people get bullied by artists. They may like what they get, but it’s not what they wanted. It’s my job to give people great art and make it feel like a party. Having a good time is good for business.”

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