As the sole provider for his wife and their one-year-old, tattoo artist Nate Stephens needed to keep earning a living after the shop where he works, Marion Street Tattoo, was shut down. He decided to design and sell T-shirts. But that plan soon became more than a way to make money.
"As the pandemic progressed," Stephens recalls, "it became clearer and clearer that my family was safe and taken care of while plenty of families around the world were being forced into dangerous situations on a daily basis. They didn't have a choice and we did, so I wanted to help the best way I knew how."
He decided to donate some of the proceeds from his shirt sales to organizations at the front of the fight against COVID-19.
"I made the decision to not only help my family, but to help others as well," he explains. "With each shirt design, I decided to donate 20 percent of overall sales to local charities. The first design was the Frontline Warrior design. This shirt has been sold over 500 times and raised over $3,000 for the Denver Health Foundation COVID19 Urgent Relief Fund."
After that strong response, he did another design he calls Stay Vigilant; 20 percent of the revenue from its sales will go to the Children's Hospital of Colorado Foundation.
While the T-shirt business has helped Stephens pay his mortgage and keep his family fed, it hasn't brought in as much money as tattooing. So he'll be heading back to work at Marion Street Tattoo on Saturday, May 9, when the stay-at-home order is lifted in Denver.
"There will be some significant changes to how we do business," he explains. "It's going to be a strange world. I tattoo for many different reasons, one of which is being able to hang out in one of the most casual, laid-back, carefree places I can think of. That's no longer the case. We will be appointment only. No walk-ins.
"What will affect me is attempting to keep the shop under ten people at a time, like Mayor Hancock has requested," Stephens says. "In order to accomplish this, I've been scheduling one appointment a day. I'll be showing up right before my scheduled time and leaving immediately after. I'm trying to minimize my exposure as much as possible. This also means that instead of making the money I typically make by completing two tattoos a day, I'll be making roughly 50 percent of that."
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Because of that — and because he's enjoyed helping organizations and seeing some extra income — Stephens plans to continue to make and sell shirts.
He's already working on a new design.
"The shirt I'm preparing for the restaurant workers should be pretty badass," he promises.