WEST JEFFERSON-Mason Harris had his pipe dream flushed away Tuesday night.
Despite earning the West Jefferson Board of Alderman’s initial approval last month, the board of adjustment’s denied Harris’s request for a conditional use permit to open and operate a tattoo shop at his current enterprise, The Joy of Vaping.
The board voted 4 to 1 in denying his request. Board member John Reeves was the only one to vote for the CUP for Harris.
The fact that Harris got this far into the process of earning a CUP might have come as a surprise to many in the town.
Because zoning prevents tattoo shops in town limits, Harris was attempting to go through the arduous process of earning a CUP. He had already cleared the hurdles in place in getting the OK from the town’s planning board and aldermen. The board of adjustment’s was the final stage in his challenge of opening the town’s first tattoo shop.
Initially, it looked as if Harris was well on his way to setting up appointments and building a clientele for his shop, but as the meeting progressed, it appeared the tide of public approval was against him.
Reeves was the first board member to address the issue at end. He said Harris would follow all state rules and even went the extra mile to implement some his rules of his own.
Harris said his shop would exclude minors and only use disposable needles.
Board member Lester Mullis said he was against a permit for a tattoo shop on principle.
“I was on the board of aldermen when the first guy came in wanting to do it.,” said Mullis of a similar request for a tattoo shop that occurred several years ago. “We told him no. We worked really hard for the town to get the way it is now. We felt it wasn’t what West Jefferson needed. We really couldn’t see that it would bring in that much revenue. I wouldn’t feel good telling this guy ‘Yes’ after telling the other one ‘No.’ I’ve had a lot of phone calls. I had one guy came talk to me said he was for it and everyone else that I talked to was against it.”
Contrary to Mullis’ claims, Harris said he had received nothing but positive feedback.
“I have 500 positive posts from people on Facebook that are begging and waiting for this to be open,” said Harris on the community’s receptiveness to a tattoo shop. “There is a lot of response and a lot do want a tattoo shop. I’m a family man. Any of you are more than welcome to see what kind of shop I currently have with my vape shop. It’s very clean. My kids are more than welcome in there. I can bring an 8 or 10 year old in there at anytime. My tattoo shop will be the very same. If it wasn’t something I’d be comfortable with having my own family in it, I wouldn’t have it.”
Harris said he cannot attest as to why the previous gentleman’s request for a shop was turned down. He said he wasn’t attempting to enter the tattoo enterprise just to “make a quick buck” and shouldn’t be judged on the merits of others.
“I’m a very clean cut person,” said Harris. “I’m a very big part of the community. I was a band booster president for the high school for eight years. I’ve raised, I don’t know how much money for that school and community. I’m part of this community. I’m a person who gives back to the community.”
Like other businesses in the town, Harris said he only wants the opportunity to pursue success. He believes a shop would also satisfy a growing demand and curb traffic leaving town.
“All I’m asking is for you to give the community a chance,” said Harris. “Let them make the choice.”
Following the denial of his request for a shop, Harris said he wasn’t “bitter toward anyone,” but said the town is standing in opposition of progress.
“I won’t point fingers,” he said to the board. “There was one member that has been smug (about his request). I’m bigger than that person, but somewhere down the line, West Jefferson has to grow. I understand you want to keep the town clean and wholesome, which was what i was trying to do. We have progressed over the years. You have a beer distillery. We have bars. I can’t get you killed when you leave my shop to go home. I’m not against any of the breweries, but my shop couldn’t cause you any harm. When do you say, ‘OK. let the town grow,’ I’m sure you were very restrained when deciding to let Boondocks come in. But you did it. That’s a bar with music and everything else but you took that chance. That’s all I’m asking for me.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.