"You get afraid that you'll lose the things you remember the most."
For Steve Draper, getting a tattoo is a way to ensure he never loses the memories that matter the most.
Steve met his wife in 1989. They were married for 32 years before she passed away—leaving him lost and brokenhearted. A few months after his wife passed and the shock of her death began to wane, Steve was trying to figure out how to move on. He knew he wanted to find a way to keep her memory alive and never “lose the things he remembered most about her.”
"I didn't want to have this huge collection of things. You know, her favorite coffee mug or anything. She wouldn't have appreciated anything like that. But we had this chalkboard in our kitchen. It was right around November 19th when the new Ghostbusters movie was released. So, she'd written on the chalkboard, ' Date night 11-19 Love Love Love You!' She got sick on November 10th, and I lost her on the 13th. So I kept looking at that chalkboard in the kitchen, and suddenly I had this epiphany. It was like I couldn't protect this chalkboard from never getting erased, but I could keep that message—the last thing that she'd written."
That's when Steve knew he would get a tattoo. He could keep that memory alive and with him forever.
"I'd taken a picture of what she wrote on the chalkboard, and then my granddaughter used her software to reverse the image so that the background was white and the chalk writing was black."
"I took the 'love you' and thought I would get that tattooed on my arm, and that would be it. So, I started researching all the artists in town."
Before her passing, when the couple was on one of their many trips to Vegas, getting a tattoo was something Steve joked about with his wife.
"My wife and I used to come out to Vegas all the time before we moved out here—back when Hart & Huntington was in the Hard Rock. One night after having dinner at the Pink Taco, we walked by a tattoo shop, and I said, 'I'm gonna just go in there and get my tattoo.' And she knows me, so she said, 'Ok. Go ahead,' Because she knew I wouldn't do it."
What came next for Steve was fate. Serendipity. Kismet.
"It doesn't surprise me that I ended up at Hart & Huntington to get my tattoo. My wife's favorite casino was Caesars. We would usually go on a cruise and then spend a long weekend on the Strip. So the year before, we stayed at Caesars, and Hart & Huntington had just moved there. It just seemed weird that they were following me," laughs Steve.
Now that Steve had his sights set on getting a tattoo, he was paying much more attention to tattoo shops, artists, and portfolios.
"I'd looked at many portfolios here in Vegas and wasn't too impressed. So then I started looking at the artists at Hart & Huntington, and Lacy's work just spoke to me."
"There was an online interview, and I could tell she was a master. Lacey reached this stage in life where she was confident plus she had strong family values. There were just a lot of things that checked all the boxes. Her portfolio just sealed the deal."
Steve did his research before getting his tattoo. And he’d tell anyone getting a tattoo to do the same.
"Make sure you research the hell out of your artist and look at their portfolio. Look at line work. Make sure you 100% know what you want and communicate that very carefully to the artist. You may think you’re being nice by telling them to do what they want, but they don’t know you so you need to be specific and realistic. Take their advice on placement and size, but give them something to work with.”
With Hart & Huntington and Lacey checking all the boxes, Steve booked his appointment—even if he was a little nervous. But now that he's one of Lacey's regular customers, he can look back on that day and laugh.
"It's funny now when I go into the shop, and I watch other people walk in to get a tattoo because I remember how nervous I was. I didn't want to be that guy that passed out or anything," Steve laughs. "Lacey knew it was my first tattoo, and for her, it was such a small piece—a no-brainer, but she knew this was a big deal for me. So she laid out all the steps. She made me feel comfortable."
Steve and Lacey laugh about the experience now.
"I have this little teeny script on there, and I'm acting like I'm getting my whole back done. Meanwhile, it's over in like 15 minutes. I asked Lacey, 'Is that it?' She said, 'Yeah, but you can always come back, and we can put a heart around it.' She just kept sharing all these great ideas."
Steve did indeed go back to get a heart around his first tattoo, and just like that he was hooked on ink.
"It's been one tattoo a month since then. It gives me something to look forward to. You know how women have spa days that they look forward to? This is my monthly getaway. I book my appointment for Sunday mornings because it's usually pretty quiet."
It's not just the tattoos that keeps Steve coming back. It’s the "home away from home" feeling he gets at the shop. And Lacey is a big part of that welcoming environment. What was it that Dr. Seuss said? "To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world?" Many people who know Lacey would say the same thing about her. She has a way of touching lives.
"She has so many clients that she’s trying to schedule and keep up with. She’s always booked, so it would be easy for her to just go through the motions. But she's not like that. I'm sure she's impacted so many people's lives the way she's impacted mine. She has this relaxing, calm demeanor. She jokes around with people in the other chairs. It's just a fun environment."
It was the environment that immediately sold Steve on Hart & Huntington.
"Not knowing the process or anything, I was a little nervous, but BJ was there, and he was super nice right out of the gate. The one girl working there helped me with the disclaimers and everything that had to be signed. Everyone does a really good job of putting you at ease. I was just so struck by the professionalism and, you know, the respect."
For Steve, Hart & Huntington was not your typical tattoo shop.
"I think in some regards, tattoo shops are still coming off a stigma—especially the street shops. You know, having a rough and a tough crowd. Hart & Huntington feels almost like a salon or a true artist's studio. Not just a tattoo shop."
Don't misinterpret Steve's meaning behind different tattoo shops. He'll tell you they're cool and they have their place in the industry.
"I mean, there's something to be said about tattoo shops with flash all over the wall and stuff. They're cool, but when you walk into Hart & Huntington, you immediately know it's clean and professional."
Steve's biggest testament to the atmosphere, cleanliness, safety and all around fun time at Hart & Huntington Vegas is the people he has brought into the shop. Special people that he wouldn’t trust to just anyone.
"I've brought my daughter there, and we've had appointments together. I've brought my granddaughter there, and we've had appointments together. Tattoos are something we've all bonded over. All three of us have the same "love you script."
For Steve, getting a tattoo at Hart & Huntington is therapeutic—something he looks forward to. It's a place for him to be known for who he is at this new stage of his life. A place where he can let his guard down—where people know him apart from a life that he shared with his late wife. And that is what helps Steve heal.
"We have fun. It has helped me heal. It gives me an armful of memories. I can look at my tattoos. I can remember the appointment. I can remember why I got the tattoo. I remember 30 years ago what my wife and I did that made me put that tattoo there and why it is special to me. A tattoo links it all together.”