When Brian Benoit opened Shaka Tattoo, 727 W. Parrish Ave., in October, he wanted "a homelike vibe."

"I wanted a warm, welcoming environment," he said. "I like to make sure my clients are greeted when they walk in. I offer them coffee."

The waiting room has a couch and chair.

There's a Christmas tree in the corner.

The paintings on the walls were donated by local artists.

And Benoit has a room in the shop where local artists can come to work at no charge.

He works in what used to be the receptionist's office when this was a chiropractor's office.

"I like the receptionist's window," he said. "I can do tattoos here and still greet people when they come in."

For those who want more privacy, there are private rooms in the back.

On this day, Benoit is working on a tattoo on Ashley Williams' upper arm.

"This is like therapy for me," she said as he worked. "It's very relaxing."

"Over half of my clients are women," Benoit said. "I'd say around 85%."

An internet search finds several sites that suggests that Benoit's numbers are part of a national trend.

The sites agree that men have more tattoos than women.

But in recent years, more women than men have been getting tattoos.

Shaka Tattoo takes its name from the Shaka hand gesture, where the hand is held in a loose fist with the thumb and pinky finger extended.

"It means cool, good vibes," Benoit said.

The sign originated with Hawaiian surfers.

Since he was born in Honolulu, Benoit wanted a name that expressed his Hawaiian roots, he said.

His family moved from Hawaii to Riverside, California, and then on to Owensboro more than 20 years ago.

"We moved here because crime was so bad in Riverside," Benoit said. "My Dad's brother worked at Texas Gas here."

Before starting his own business, Benoit served in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne, was an underwater welder and worked in other tattoo parlors.

"I give a discount to all veterans," he said.

Benoit said he got his first tattoo when he was 18.

"My older sister did it," he said. "Several members of my family are artists. I've been drawing since I was 5 or 6."

Benoit said, "Tattoos give people a lot of confidence."

He said, "I've seen people covered from head to toe with tattoos. But I don't recommend face tattoos or other tattoos you can't cover up unless you're going to stay in the tattoo industry. I didn't get my knuckle tattoos until I decided to stay in the industry."

Ipsos, a data collection agency, reported this fall that 30% of Americans have at least one tattoo -- up from 21% in 2012.

It said those who have tattoos have an average of four each.

Benoit said he does a lot of memorial tattoos.

"Maybe copying a grandfather's signature from a greeting card as a tattoo, things like that." he said. "I keep negative vibes out."

After two months in business, Benoit said. "I'm starting to get a lot of clients and we do walk-ins daily. A lot of shops don't do that."

He said, "There are at least nine tattoo shops in town. I've met quite a few of the other artists. I'm trying to build a community of tattoo artists. It should be about brotherhood, not competition. In big cities, tattoo shops are next to each other."

Shaka Tattoo's hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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