Chuk Högnell is pretty easy to spot on Main Street in Tarrytown. He's tall, has his beard in two braids, and will likely be wearing a kilt.
Another give away – plenty of tattoos.
Tattooing has become Högnell's profession and livelihood since growing up in Irvington. Now he is eager to bring that passion to Tarrytown in the form of The Mighty Horseman, a tattoo parlor.
"It's an art form like any other and there are a lot of art galleries on Main Street," he said. "There is a lot of art and culture happening here now and I want to be part of that in this town."
Högnell has been working in the ink industry for 13 years, and has developed an extensive catalog of work. He enjoys black and gray art, Celtic design and realism (see selections of his work in the photo gallery). Currently, he works in Mahopac at The Iron Butterfly, a parlor he helps manage. He also frequently goes abroad to Iceland and Europe for guest tattooing appearances.
But now his sights are set on Tarrytown, both to cut down his commute, allow him to run his own business and cater to a population that doesn't have a tattoo parlor nearby. He thinks there would be plenty of interest in tattoos to sustain a business in Tarrytown, and states that he has a built up a reputation that will attract customers from further afield. A far cry from the stereotype of bikers and sailors, he said those seeking tattoos really run the gamut.
"I tattoo a lot of police officers, doctors, EMS workers, all the way to an 18-year-old getting their first tattoo," he said. "I am not above doing any kind of work, but I try to educate people as far as what looks nice and what won't."
However, Högnell has run into some obstacles in his pursuit of establishing a business – the Village doesn't allow for tattoo parlors.
Tonight, starting at 8 p.m., there will be a public hearing on amending the Village Code to allow tattoo parlors in town. The law restricting their establishment was adopted in 1993, and according to the Village Code, was meant to curb instances of hepatitis transmission.
"Regulatory measures have proved ineffective in eliminating this health risk because of the inability to supervise tattooing establishments at all time," states the Village Code.
For this reason, the code was amended to make it "unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being within the Village of Tarrytown, except that tattooing may be performed for medical purposes..."
However, a lot has changed since 1993. Tattooing is much more widespread, and has less of a stigma. There are also more stringent health regulations, although none are on the books in Westchester County.
"The bottom line is I run a very clean business," he said, while noting he follows tattoo regulations and health protocols established in New York City and Rockland County.
The artist also faces some resistance from locals who have said adding tattoo parlors to the Village will detract from the small-town feel and will set a bad example for children.
"I don't cater to, or tattoo children in any way, that's against the law," Högnell said. "Logically there is no reason why they (parlors) shoudn't be allowed. There have been a few people in town who don't like it, but no one really has a legitimate reason why I can't open a business. It's not like it's a strip club."
While the Tarrytown Board of Trustees seems open to allowing a tattoo parlor in town, there may be a different kind of resistance for Högnell moving forward – finding an adequate location.
"When I started six months ago there were all kinds of places available, and now that the ball is about to get rolling there is nothing," he said. "I don't have a location just yet, but there are a couple of potential spots."
Ideally, he said, the shop would be located on the ground level on Main Street or North Broadway. He is seeking to have a tasteful street-facing facade, void of neon or anything garish. His main goal, he said, is to fit in with a town that he calls his home.
"Tattooing is a modern art form and that is what I want to bring to the town, and I think it will add to the character rather than detract," he said.