These 30 rock
The 30 Columbians
Mikey Wheeler is a tattoo artist and business owner by day and a rock guitarist by night. But his life, he says, is nothing like the stereotype. “Honestly, people have this crazy idea of tattoo shops,” he says. “They think everyone is rowdy and doing drugs. It’s much more tame and pretty boring.”
Wheeler is the owner of one of Columbia’s tattoo studios, Hollywood Rebels, and takes his ink on the road. His work brings him to gatherings he describes as the tattoo enthusiast’s equivalent of a Star Trek convention, where owners seek out new artists. Many artists tattoo on-site. Artists also participate in various seminars, projects and presentations. These events bring recognition to shops and lovers of body art to one location.
Eight years ago, tattoo-covered musicians inspired the then 17-year-old to turn his sketches into a career in ink.
Wheeler served in an apprenticeship and personal understudy program that got him in the business; he has been working at Hollywood Rebels ever since. Almost a year ago, the previous owner moved to St. Louis and sold the store to Wheeler.
Jon Hankley, a piercer at Hollywood Rebels, describes Wheeler as a laid-back guy who makes sure the shop is immaculately clean and likely spends more time there than anyone else. “He makes sure his customers are comfortable, and as far as his workers are concerned, that they’re comfortable and happy, too.”
Business is strong, thanks in part to the rising popularity of tattoos in pop culture.
“Winter used to be a slow season,” Wheeler says. “The present this Christmas was tattoos.”
Wheeler worked through the abnormal holiday rush and specialized in portraits and historical reproductions. Despite his relatively new ownership gig, which requires a lot of paperwork and administrative duties, he still spends the better part of every workday with needle in hand; it’s his passion.