Rethinking Ink

Melanie Gregory


Tattoo removal is about feeling comfortable, says Melanie Gregory, and sometimes the laser process is more about making room for new art than it is ridding oneself of ink altogether. Gregory and her husband, Ron, just opened Reno Tattoo Removal on Marsh Avenue (they're the RN&R's new neighbors, actually), in a quaint, artsy little house that dates back to the 1930s. Their place feels a bit like a funky med spa, with a state-of-the-art laser that Gregory says can remove all colors—even notoriously stubborn blues and greens—and leave little to no blistering. The grand opening is slated for May.

So how’d you get into this business?

We wanted a comfortable place where everyone could feel welcome, where you can have something on your body that you’re proud of, and if you want to have something taken off and get something new put on [you can] … or maybe you just want it off, and that would make you feel better. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin, whether it’s with tattoos or without tattoos. There’s no judgment.

Who are your clients? What are they like?

They range. I would say statistically they’re typically women, but we haven’t been in business that long. The more we talk to people, the more even tattoo artists are talking to us about wanting to get new work—to get rid of old things and bring in the new.

How does that come about? Do they actually send you clients?

Yeah. People come to them and say, ’Hey, I want this covered up,’ and they say, ’You know, we can’t really work with that.’ You don’t need as many sessions [when undergoing laser removal for the sake of new tattoos]; if you’re getting complete removal, it’s a lot lengthier of a process, so they come in and get a few sessions to get it to the desired lightness for the tattoo artist to work with. Then they go back to their tattoo artist and get something that they really want.

Are certain types of tattoos—like, say, exes’ names—the ones that’re most likely to be removed?

Not really. It’s more like older tattoos that they’ve grown out of. There have been a few ring fingers and things like that … but I haven’t seen any exes’ names yet.

This feels like a good market to touch upon and figure out, since so many people have tattoos now.

We live, eat, breathe, and talk about this late at night till our eyes close. It’s truly our passion, and there’s so much involved. It’s not just turning on a laser. It’s understanding people’s skin, and everybody’s so different in the way they react. It’s [related to] their immune system, their complexion, their heritage, their background. Everything plays a huge role. … It’s a big deal for us, having three kids and making this work. Our kids call it “hat-too removal.” Our 6-year-old told us to get a big microphone and put it on the roof, and say, “Hey, everybody, we do hat-too removal here! If you don’t have a hat-too, go get one, and come and see us!” [Gregory laughs.] I was like, “That’s good. That’s good advice.”