CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Jason Baker, owner of Canvas Tattoo & Art Gallery in Charlotte, knew the day would come, in March, when his close-contact shop would close because of COVID-19.
“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “I had a knot in my stomach.”
Baker is relieved now, like many, to be open again.
“It was amazing for us, to see people reach out and say, ‘How can we help you through this?’” Baker said. “So, we did pay it forward programs, where folks could think about the tattoo they wanted, and they were sending in, through Venmo, random amounts, sometimes large amounts, of money. That was very helpful, and key in re-opening, because for me, when you have no income for two and a half months, there’s this need to bring in all this PPE, testing devices, masks, and some of these things were not only expensive, but hard to even find.”
Baker needed help from customers and the community.
He did not receive a PPP loan and did not receive his EIDL loan until he was already back open - after he spent about $5,000 on supplies to keep employees and customers safe.
“I think all businesses should do that,” Baker said. “I have a name for it, I call it ‘community-based capitalism.’ There are companies that see a zip code, a need to extract from that neighborhood. I’m an advocate of giving back. And people feel it, and they see it. These folks remember that they feel your give back, they know you’re not a leech sucking off your neighborhood, you’re giving back to it, and it pays back in spades.”
Now, there is anticipation for small business owners like Baker.
“It wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility if we would see another stay at home order,” Baker said. “[The loan money] is in the bank, and it will help me through that if need be.”
That is how his shop, and many others, are operating - open now, and staying careful, but waiting for the chance businesses like theirs may have to close, again, and what that could mean if some might end up closing for good.
“[Tattoo shops] are an important part of the community,” Baker says. “We are cultural centers of the community...we host fundraisers, events, we prop up the arts...you’ll find out with months of time on the couch and access to the internet, this is a billion-dollar industry.”
Baker believes it is important, even as businesses are struggling, to give back to the community. That is why he bought more than a dozen pizzas for Black Lives Matter protesters that passed by his NoDa shop.
“It’s one of the most beautiful things we’ve done, and it will be a beautiful memory for me," Baker said. “I get a little teared up talking about it.”
Baker said it is that community connection, more than anything, that has kept him going, financially.