Today we’d like to introduce you to William Spencer.
William, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I was a body piercer in Connecticut before I moved to St. Louis in 1995. Once I moved to St. Louis, I was hired to work at the studio by its former owner, Stan Schober. He and I worked together for a number of years when I bought into the business as a partner. A year or so went by as partners, and I proceeded to buy the rest of the business from Stan. We joined the Association of Professional Piercers and greatly expanded the studio, adding Tattooing and offering a much more robust selection of jewelry. During this time, and over the next few years, we continued expanding by physically adding more rooms and taking over the rest of our building.
We have been expanding our location and improving our services ever since. It feels like something is always under construction!
It has been a long and difficult process, but we have always managed to stay on top of our game. In a sea of ever-shifting competition, we offer, without a doubt, the very best piercing experience available anywhere even remotely close to our area.
We now have six or so tattoo artists and six or so piercers along with a full complement of other staff.
We travel every year to Las Vegas for the annual APP conference where I, along with multiple staff members, teach classes, meet other piercers and industry contemporaries, learn everything we can and pick up new jewelry and after care products.
Stan continues to pierce at the studio; he is both a mentor to me and a trusted friend. There is no question– I achieved what I have because of him.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No road is smooth if you look closely enough. However, I have had incredible support. My wife, Stan, friends, family, and the other local businesses have all been very helpful and very supportive. Naturally, minor issues have arisen along the way but with all the hard work, solid support, and a little luck things have been pretty good so far! When Missouri decided to pass legislation regarding my industry, we worked with them, helping them to create some of the rules and regulations now in place. I was asked to help train all the new inspectors and help them learn what to look for regarding establishment guidelines.
By far the most difficult part of this entire journey has been bringing in the right people for the job. This is especially true in regards to piercers. There are very few qualified body piercers at the very top level of the piercing industry, and finding those who are not only skilled but have the personality and disposition we require makes this by far the most daunting challenge.
Jewelry supply is another rather thorny issue. All of the jewelry we use is compliant with the standards set forth by the Association of Professional Piercers. Jewelry of this type is far different than what is typically available at the vast majority of piercing or tattoo studios. Restocking an order at a kiosk in the mall is very simple, while our suppliers’ backorders can exceed upwards of 5 months or more! This can lead to some logistical issues, as you can imagine. We’ve implemented a system that took some time to tweak but allows us to maintain the quality jewelry with which we pierce our clientele.
The struggle I personally have on a regular basis is that what I envision is almost always beyond what is currently possible. There is never enough time in the day, or money in my wallet, to bring into reality what lives in my head.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Professionally, I am a Body Piercer and studio owner. (I was an EMT for eight years also but mostly just for fun.) I always wanted to be an Architect as a kid, and I enjoy using my hands to make things so I designed and built my entire studio myself. Of course, I did have the help of friends and family and a few licensed contractors when the law required it.
I’ve successfully designed and sold multiple different lines of jewelry over the years whenever the fancy strikes me. I’ve done the same with jewelry displays I created. We published a number of drawing reference books as well. All this stuff came and went, the remnants are still around, but I am easily tired of repeating myself and eventually move on to new projects.
During this time period in my life, I helped to found a not-for-profit organization, Zombie Squad, dedicated to helping communities by spreading disaster awareness information and the facilitation of fund-raising for other respectable disaster relief charities. We used Zombies as a metaphor for disasters (www.zombiehunters.org), and this organization became international with chapters all over the world. We even were the premise of a major zombie film.
Alongside all these endeavors, I design and build props, costumes and sets for plays, movies, circus artists, and other performances. As long as I’m interested in the project and I like the people involved, I’m excited to work on it. I have a warehouse full of old props, backdrops, and set pieces–I don’t know what to do with it all!
We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
Infectious disease control has always been an important aspect of my industry so I wasn’t surprised in regards to the rise of Covid-19 or any of the details surrounding its mitigation. Supply chain logistics has always been a personal interest of mine, and I find it fascinating and fun! My own personal experience regarding jewelry logistics (I’ve taught a few classes regarding this exact subject), my experience with Zombie Squad, and my work as a volunteer with the Red Cross Disaster Response Team has given me a very healthy skepticism for “just in time” manufacturing. I have always thought that our society would do well to leave a few pennies on the table for a more robust system.
While Covid-19 didn’t teach me much in new or interesting ways regarding infection control, transmission, or government responses to such a scenario. Unfortunately, it was an entirely predictable scenario. I have great compassion for those who passed and those who have lost loved ones. However, I was heartened by St. Louis’ small businesses and my community’s reactions– both during and following lock-down. I found our clientele supportive of our pro-safety stance both in our studio closure and in the reopening post-pandemic safety protocols we enacted. We are fortunate to have a client base and community network who largely share our concerns and value all people.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: trxtattoos.com
- Instagram: will_spencer_trx