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July 12, 2024

Gilroy tattoo shop owner is thankful for support

29:11 Tattoo evolved during pandemic

In this season of Thanksgiving, Kenny Brown is grateful for many things.

The owner of 29:11 Tattoo at 353 East 10th St., Unit C in Gilroy is thankful for his clients, who have supported him since he opened his business in 2020, even voting the shop as the Best Tattoo Parlor in 2021 and 2022 in the annual Best of Gilroy awards.

He’s grateful for the tight-knit community of Gilroy who look after each other.

And, he’s even thankful for the pandemic.

Wait, what?

Two months after 29:11 Tattoo opened, Brown’s business and every other tattoo shop in Santa Clara County was forced to shut down by county officials struggling to contain the spreading Covid-19.

The opening days of the business were a stressful time, Brown said, as he was juggling the numerous tasks to get the shop off the ground, while also working with clients to meet their needs.

But Brown, who noted he is a firm believer in quality over quantity, said he wasn’t able to give his clients the attention they deserved, and his work suffered for it.

So, when the pandemic-related closures came, Brown welcomed it.

“I actually enjoyed the closure,” he said. “It gave me a chance to breathe and to focus on my business and how to build it into the vision that I have. I was able to focus on how to become a better person and better artist.”

During the months-long closure, Brown said he created his own clothing line in order to keep the business afloat while he worked to make 29:11 Tattoo the shop he wanted it to be.

The biggest change was transitioning the business from a walk-in shop to appointment-only. Blinds were added to windows on the storefront to eliminate the distractions from the busy shopping center, while soothing music plays in the shop where artwork hangs on the walls.

As a result, Brown said he now serves a client a day, after working with multiple walk-ins daily pre-pandemic.

“I work to establish a relationship with them rather than a business deal,” he said. “One client a day is all I do. They get my full one-on-one attention.”

Brown said he wanted to flip the stigma of tattoo shops on its head, where the general perspective is that they are rough, loud and dangerous places to be, and often portrayed as such in mass media.

“I created a more gentle and more professional side,” he said. “I’ve found a way to make tattooing more comfortable and in a more relaxed environment.”

Brown’s mission seems to be successful, noting that his client base includes many first-timers as well as varied ages from 18 to 81. He’s even tattooed his church’s pastor.

Prior to 29:11 Tattoo, Brown spent eight years as an artist at various tattoo shops in the Bay Area with a goal to open his own shop.

He eventually came across the space in the Orchard Center on East Tenth Street. His shop needed a name, which Brown admitted wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t until a fateful moment while stuck at a traffic light when the perfect name presented itself. Brown, who at the time was wearing a wristband with the Bible verse “Jeremiah 29:11” imprinted on it, happened to glance at his wrist when inspiration struck.

The verse describes that success comes after trials and tribulations, something that Brown could relate to after experiencing rejection of his business proposal elsewhere.

The “29:11” numbers also added up: Brown’s birthday is Nov. 29.

“The secret is not caring about the money, not caring about the popularity,” he said. “It’s more so caring about helping someone in whatever season they are in. That’s what I figured out was the best way to create a successful business.”

For information, visit 2911tattoo.com.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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