Schmidt shifts from autos to artistry

Published 6:44 pm Monday, February 22, 2016

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Charles Schmidt is busiest at tax time, but he’s not an accountant.

An entrepreneur with his own thriving three-employee business, The Parlor in St. Joseph, is a tattoo artist.

He has yet to have a customer request Donald Trump’s likeness, though he did ink an entire women’s book club, ages 55-72, with wrist ampersands a year and a half ago.

One of his employees marked Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito’s character on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

“I have an accountant,” said Schmidt, who earned his Associate of Applied Science degree Dec. 16, 2007, in automotive technology from Southwestern Michigan College while also studying art and graphic design.

His wife, Sara (Mills), is a product of SMC’s nursing program.

Schmidt, an Eau Claire native who lives in Niles, worked two years for Peterson European in Granger, Ind.

“I was blessed, working on Porsches and Ferraris straight out of school,” he said. “I loved it. We worked on a 1968 GTE 2+2. But I also did art and graphic design with David Baker and Bill Rothwell and loved that. Bill helped me so much I don’t have to outsource logos, web design, business cards or T-shirts.”

When Schmidt showed his portfolio to a St. Joseph parlor owner “I was hired on the spot as an apprentice. It normally takes two to three years, but I was so adamant about getting it done, I did it in a year. At the end of that year I was running the business, so I started my own” in September 2012.

“I’ve always wanted to work for myself and I am extremely happy to own a business. On the other hand, you’re not only working for yourself and your family, you’re working to keep the shop open for your employees and making sure they have food on their tables. We are booked at least two months in advance year-around. It spikes up at tax time and comes down a little” at the end of the summer when people buy back-to-school supplies.

“Everything I took at SMC transferred and saved me a lot of money,” he said. “Someone teaching another tattoo artist doesn’t want to have to build your art skills, they want you to have them already. After 10 pieces, he said, ‘Do you want to start tomorrow?’ I studied graphic design because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. At the time, you had to be in Seattle or Los Angeles. Now they have the technology to send big files.”

“Being a perfectionist in my field is the most perfect thing possible,” he said. “You want to make a tattoo absolutely perfect the first time because you only get one chance at something special they’re going to have the rest of their lives.

“In 2012 we won a Celebration Cinema customer service award and finished second this year behind Bob Evans. I want the shop to be family-friendly. I want people to come in with their kids. We want our clients to turn into our friends for long-term relationships. All three of us see maybe eight people a day, where a coffee place may push out 400. We sit with our clients and talk. We know how old your kids are, where they go to school, what your favorite food is, where you vacation. We do a lot of memorials and mourn with them. They come back, we ask how the kids are and about that trip to Italy. So many people just come by and say hi when they’re in the area,” since customers hail from Chicago, Wisconsin, Tennessee and New York.