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Tucked away on Glen Street, Gailz Tattooz has operated for nearly three decades, leaving an indelible mark not only on the skin of its patrons but also on the fabric of the community itself.
Now, after nearly 27 years, the longtime local tattoo shop is closing. Gail Carter, owner of Gailz Tattooz, spoke with the News last week about her career of making tattoo art and her decision to close the business.
Carter said her journey into the world of tattooing was an unexpected one, stemming from her background in computer graphics.
“My husband suggested it because I had gotten an associate degree in applied science and computer graphics,” she said. “I found out it was frustrating because there was so much clipart, you didn’t get to draw as many things as I thought I would in the art industry.”
Entirely self-taught in her newfound art form, Carter took the plunge into tattooing and opened Gailz Tattooz with a simple goal —- to pay the rent by doing one tattoo a week.
“The economy is different, but usually I kept booked a couple months out during the warm season when people are thinking about tattoos from right after income tax till school starts,” she said. “That’s the season, and back-to-school people also lose their minds, and around Christmas.”
Carter said this May would have marked the shop’s 27th anniversary, and added that it has been witness to countless memorable moments over the years. Each tattoo, she said, tells a story — from unique requests, such as an orthopedic surgeon’s armband depicting the spine, to personal memorials like signatures of loved ones.
“Those are real special to me — writing, like maybe grandma’s signature, or the dog paw print — we really love doing those because they’re so special to somebody, and it’s an honor that they would ask us to do them for them and trust us with something so important,” Carter said. “So those are our favorites.”
Carter said she takes pride in the meaningful work she and her colleague, Dustin Cummins, who has worked in the shop along with her for two years, have created, ensuring that every client leaves happy with a piece of art that stands the test of time. She added, however, that there are some tattoos that have been off-limits for the shop over the years.
“We don’t do bad words, we don’t do Satan pictures, we don’t do jailhouse stuff,” she said. “We do quality art. I want someone to feel good about whatever I put on them and to love it forever. If I think they’ll regret it, I won’t put it on them.”
Carter said Gailz Tattooz became an institution in Yellow Springs, attracting a diverse clientele seeking not only tattoos, but also a sense of connection and community.
“We fit real good,” she said, adding that, at first, neighboring families on Glen Street were “a little worried” to have a tattoo shop on their street.
“Later they came and thanked us for cleaning up the front and always keeping it nice and clean,” Carter said. “We’re here five days a week, so we watched little kids grow up and go off to college. They’re my friends and neighbors.”
The evolution of technology has significantly transformed the tattoo industry, Carter said, shifting from physical books of designs to digital images brought in by clients on their smartphones. During her interview with the News, Carter said she was busy sorting through stacks of sample tattoo art — most of which, she added, are no longer used by clients.
“Now we just Google it, you know — it’s right there and you can have a million options,” she said. “So people come in with it on their phone. Now, these tattoos are just decoration on the walls — hardly anybody picks them anymore.”
As a woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry, Carter said she has faced her share of challenges, but ultimately embraced her role as a trailblazer. She said the Dayton Daily News once interviewed her because she was a woman tattoo artist, and “they didn’t have many around.”
“I tattooed a lot of grandmas who were more comfortable getting their tattoo done by a woman, rather than the great big biker guy,” she said, adding that she’s worked to ensure the comfort of everybody who comes in, whether they’re young or old. Her oldest customer to get their first tattoo was 92 years old.
The friendly village of Yellow Springs and the tons of foot traffic were great for business, Carter said. However, the economic impact of recent global challenges, such as COVID-19, as well as personal considerations, have led Carter to contemplate retirement. Now, as she prepares to close the doors of her shop and embark on a new chapter of her life, she does so with a mix of nostalgia and excitement for the future.
“It’s so bittersweet,” Carter said. “But 27 years, and I’m getting up in years, so it’s time to retire while I’m still doing good stuff.”
Looking ahead, Carter said she is uncertain about what the future holds, but she is eager to explore new passions and opportunities, whether it’s traveling, spending time with her husband, or perhaps even reconnecting with her love for animals. Both she and her husband, she said, have rescued animals for years.
“He was a licensed nuisance trapper, and he would get skunks or raccoons out of attics and chimneys. Then, we would bottle-feed the babies and relocate them,” Carter said. “So we have had squirrels and raccoons and crows and all sorts of possums — anything that got hurt that needed bottle-fed or something.”
Carter said she and her husband rescued one baby raccoon after it was abandoned in a barn — and continued to care for the raccoon for 14 years.
“Every kid in the neighborhood played with him,” she said.
She noted, however, that caring for rescued animals is an “around-the-clock thing,” sometimes requiring feedings every two hours. That part of the job, she said, was easy.
The hard part? Turning an animal loose after they’ve been rehabilitated, knowing they may fall prey to potential predators like hawks and owls. Over the years, Carter and her husband found a network of people who would allow them to put rescue animal shelters in their trees. This gave the rescued animals a place they could stay as they became reacquainted with their environment.
Throughout her career, Carter said she has remained steadfast in her commitment to quality and professionalism, prioritizing cleanliness, safety and customer satisfaction above all else.
“We didn’t cut any corners. We were sticklers about the cleanliness and the sterilizing,” she said. “We want to do everything perfect.”
As Carter prepares to bid farewell to her beloved shop, she said she hopes former clients will continue to remain in touch.
“I think most of my customers have my cell phone [number], because they sent me artwork on it and they’re texting me on that to make appointments,” she said. “So I think we’ll still keep in contact.”
The Glen Helen Association, or GHA, has announced the completion of its $4.25 million campaign, launched in June 2020, to purchase Glen Helen Nature Preserve from Antioch College, reopen the preserve to the public, restart educational programs and address urgent needs related to public safety and the ecological health of the preserve.
The campaign reached its goal with contributions from 857 donors, according to a press release from GHA.
The funding has gone toward securing the purchase of the 1,125-acre preserve, demolishing the derelict Antioch College Power Plant and keeping trails safe and open.
After a range of improvements to facilities, the Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center restarted residential programs for school children and summer Ecocampers; and the Glen Helen Raptor Center has a new rehabilitation complex, with a camera system to help improve the care of sick, injured or orphaned birds of prey.
Improving accessibility to the preserve for people with limited mobility was also part of the campaign, which funded the improvement of bridges and boardwalks throughout the preserve, as well as parking, trails and signage.
Visitors are now able to survey a beaver dam and pond from the vantage point of a new elevated boardwalk. Six bridges and boardwalks have been completed to date, with additional structures planned in the coming year. The most significant of the new bridges will be an updated span across Birch Creek.
“The bridge atop the Birch Creek Cascades is one of Ohio’s marquee scenic vistas,” Glen Helen Association Executive Director Nick Boutis said in the press release. “We’re looking forward to updating that view for the next generations of Glen Helen visitors.”
The GHA is inviting the public to a campaign completion celebration on Thursday, May 23, from 4–7 p.m., at Glen Helen. Activities will include two walks to tour progress made by the campaign and a reception to learn more about its impact. More information can be found at glenhelen.org/calendar.
A special meeting of the YS school board — scheduled Thursday, Feb. 15, in order to discuss and vote on the censure of a board member — ended about eight minutes after it started due to a lack of quorum. Because only board members Amy Bailey and Dorothée Bouquet were present for the meeting, a vote on the proposed censure could not be made.
Board President Judith Hempfling, Vice President Rebecca Potter and board member Amy Magnus were unable to attend the special meeting due to scheduling conflicts, according to documents shared with the News.
The special meeting was called by Bailey and Bouquet for the purpose of censuring Magnus; though special meetings are typically called by the board president, the board’s bylaws allow special meetings to be called by two board members. A public notice announcing the meeting was posted to the YS school district and YS News websites Tuesday, Feb. 13, and agenda documents were posted to the district’s BoardDocs page 24 hours ahead of the meeting.
According to agenda documents for the special meeting, Superintendent Terri Holden emailed board President Hempfling on Saturday, Feb. 10, and requested that Magnus be censured at the board’s next regular meeting in March. In explaining the request, Holden cited a message Magnus sent to a YS teacher earlier that day; the message reads: “Your anger is palpable. It is also misplaced.”
The message appears to reference public comments the teacher made two days prior during the board’s regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 8. As reported in last week’s issue of the News, 20 local residents and educators, including the teacher who was messaged by Magnus, spoke at the Feb. 8 meeting, sharing concerns about the district’s facilities improvement project.
In particular, community comments responded to a proposal by board member Rebecca Potter to create an advisory committee centered on a performing arts space planned for the middle and high school campus upgrade. Several who spoke, including the teacher messaged by Magnus, said they worried that the committee proposal contained language that appeared to suggest diverting levy funds away from the performing arts space to other areas of the facilities improvement project; Potter later assured those present that there are no such plans for the advisory committee.
In her email to Hempfling, Holden also cited an instance in which Magnus emailed the superintendent following a Dec. 14 regular board meeting. The email from Magnus refers to a discussion in that board meeting, which was at times heated, during which Magnus requested that the board add a phrase about renewable energy to a request for qualifications, or RFQ, the board was set to approve that night as the first step toward hiring an architect for the district’s facilities improvement project.
The district’s legal counsel, Ben Hyden of Bricker & Graydon, said during the December meeting that the addition of the phrase to the RFQ would not noticeably change the range of applicants the district received. Holden said she believed the phrases “energy efficiency” and “sustainability,” which were already part of the RFQ, were broad enough to include renewable energy when considering architect applicants, and that making an addition to the RFQ would mean sending it back to legal counsel for revision, delaying its approval until the following month.
Holden added that the RFQ language had been shared with board members several days in advance, and contended that Magnus should have suggested inserting the phrase about renewable energy prior to the meeting, before the official RFQ approval document was added to the agenda, to avoid delay. Magnus maintained that the addition of the phrase was a minor edit to the RFQ’s language. The RFQ was ultimately approved by the board without the suggested addition from Magnus.
Magnus wrote later that night to Holden of the meeting and discussion: “If [a document is] under discussion for the first time in a public meeting, you should be prepared to take revisions. … I’m at a loss at whatever demons you all were battling tonight. If the schedule is already so tight that you can’t consider a minor edit, you are already backed too tight against the wall.”
In her email to Hempfling recommending the censure, Holden also referred to an instance in January in which Magnus posted comments in the thread of a Facebook post discussing Yondr pouches, which were recently implemented at the middle and high schools.
Holden requested that Magnus be censured for a “pattern of inappropriate communication,” stating that said pattern constituted a “clear violation of board policy.”
Holden referred to section 0148.1 of the school board’s bylaws, which concerns communication between board members and staff. The section reads in part: “All official communications, policies, and directives of the Board of staff interest and concern to the staff will generally be communicated through the Superintendent, who shall also keep staff members informed of the Board’s concerns and actions.”
Though Holden’s email to Hempfling requested that the censure be added to the agenda of the board’s March regular meeting, Bouquet said during the abbreviated special meeting last week that she and Bailey had called the meeting sooner in order to signal to YS schools staff that the board was “not complacent with the accusation that was on the table.”
“I wanted to make sure that they felt heard and considered in the vehicle for justice here,” Bouquet said during the special meeting.
Bouquet also addressed questions she said she’d received from members of the public, including why the censure was being conducted publicly.
With regard to the public nature of the censure, Bouquet pointed to documents included on the special meeting’s agenda, stating that she had attempted to communicate with Magnus privately in past instances, but that ultimately she believed, based on those instances that private conversation “could not happen.” The documents to which Bouquet referred include emails between Bouquet and Magnus in December, following Magnus’ Dec. 14 email exchange with Holden and a Facebook post Magnus made expressing disappointment with the way the Dec. 14 meeting was handled, citing bullying.
A second email from Bouquet to Magnus notes that Magnus declined an offer from Holden to discuss the allegations of bullying in a private meeting; a response email from Magnus requests an apology and maintains that “the most appropriate time to discuss the breakdown in decorum that happened at the [Dec. 14] meeting is with the full board at our next regular meeting.” The issue was not addressed by the board at the following regular meeting.
Quorum not reached
Noting that, without a quorum, she and Bailey could not take a vote at the special meeting, Bouquet said she had hoped the whole board “would be present and prioritize the active request” made by Holden, and noted her disappointment that board members Hempfling, Magnus and Potter did not reach out to her and Bailey until the day after the meeting was announced to say they were unable to attend.
In a Feb. 14 email from Hempfling to Bouquet, which was shared with the News and which Bouquet summarized during the special meeting, Hempfling stated that she believed it was “discourteous” for Bailey and Bouquet to set the special meeting date and time without checking the availability of the rest of the board’s members beforehand.
“Perhaps you all forgot, but we already knew that [Potter and Magnus] were busy Thursday evenings till at least 7. That’s why we changed the [regular] meeting time to 7 p.m.,” Hempfling writes in the email, noting the board’s shift from holding its monthly Thursday meetings at 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hempfling also noted her own unavailability for the meeting due to a work conflict.
In another email shared with the News, Potter reminded Holden the day before the meeting that she teaches undergraduate courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that she is unavailable from noon to 7 p.m. on those days.
“On a matter of this kind, I think it is very important that all board members are present when it is discussed,” Potter wrote.
Bouquet said she intends to add the censure resolution to the board’s regular meeting in March.
The Feb. 15 special meeting may be viewed in full on the “Yellow Springs Schools Board Meetings” YouTube channel. The special meeting’s agenda and documents are available online at bit.ly/YSSchoolBoardDocs.
2024 marks a heroic anniversary. Twenty-five years ago, against insurmountable odds, Yellow Springs residents accomplished what many thought was impossible.
In February 1999, as the result of communitywide activism and campaigning, villagers raised $1.2 million to save the 940-acre Whitehall Farm from development.
Located on U.S. 68 North, between Yellow Springs and Young’s Dairy, the farmland was set to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. According to past News reporting, villagers feared that the land — which had been exclusively used for crop rotation since the early 1800s — would be engulfed by housing tracts or strip malls, should it fall into enterprising hands wishing to double the size of the village.
Villagers came together, raised enough money from private and local governments in just six weeks, and used those funds to purchase a conservation easement on the property, which helped local residents David and Sharen Neuhardt — who already owned the Whitehall mansion and a small parcel of the farm — buy its entirety at auction for $3.275 million.
Groups big and small, including the Farmland Preservation Task Force, a group of private individuals and public officials; the Trust for Public Land, a national farmland preservation organization; Miami Township Trustees; Greene County Commissioners; Village Council members; the local activist group Citizens to Save Our Town and Farmland; and, notably, Tecumseh Land Trust, all joined forces in securing the purchase.
But past reports indicate that a groundswell of individual concerned citizens is what led to Whitehall’s preservation.
Signs checkered Yellow Springs yards, a “corn-o-meter” erected on the wall of Deaton’s Hardware store, now Yellow Springs Hardware, daily tracked the community’s fundraising efforts, eight-foot-tall “NO SPRAWL” letters made by Jim Mayer lined the highway, bake sales were staged, a 13-hour concert at Antioch College’s Kelly Hall raised $7,000, a Mills Lawn Elementary student raised $7 at lunchtime to “save the cows,” and much, much more was done to save the farm.
“This is a story about one community’s attempt to preserve a sacred space, a diminishing resource and a way of life,” News editor Amy Harper wrote in an editorial on Feb. 25, 1999. “It’s about how government and private citizens joined forces to achieve a common goal. It’s about how ordinary people can make things happen if they put their minds to it.”
—YS News staff
The Foundry Theater at Antioch College continues its 2023–24 live performance series on Tuesday, Feb. 27, when famed singer-songwriter and cult icon Jonathan Richman takes the stage for a bare-bones, acoustic set — a departure from the high-voltage sounds of Richman’s early musical career.
Richman, now 72, is a lifelong performer known for his enthusiastic, wide-eyed stage presence and earnest lyricism. He’s the founding member of the seminal band The Modern Lovers, which many critics say influenced the punk movement of the early 1970s. Richman’s original band included keyboardist Jerry Harrison, who later joined Talking Heads, and drummer David Robinson, who, after The Modern Lovers, joined The Cars.
Since The Modern Lovers disbanded in the late 1980s, and with his punk days largely behind him, Richman’s solo career has spanned 18 albums — each one replete with his slice-of-life, observational songwriting and multilingual rhapsodies of love, all set to the tune of his nylon-string guitar.
Richman’s unplugged approach to making music applies elsewhere in his life: According to his publicist, Debbie Gulyas of Blue Arrow Records, Richman doesn’t own a computer and only conducts written interviews. As such, the News sent Gulyas 10 questions to pose to Richman; she transcribed his responses below.
* * *
YS News: In the past, you’ve said you prefer smaller and more intimate venues. The Foundry Theater at historic Antioch College in Yellow Springs is just that. What do smaller venues allow you to do on stage as a musician that larger venues don’t? Likewise, what do small performances offer audiences?
Jonathan Richman: You can get closer to people that way, and the sound is often warmer.
News: Your musical palette seems like it’s always reaching across space and time. Each new album has surprising and sometimes ancient references, colors and textures. You’ve been learning and singing in Ojibwe, getting into classical music, and so much more. What compels you to grow and evolve as an artist?
Richman: Life itself! As Frank Sinatra said: “You’ve got to keep growing.” (Or words to that effect.)
News: You’re a well-known improvisor. None of your live renditions sound like the recorded versions. How intentional is that? Is it just that we change as people over time or is there something significant — maybe even sacred — to making “old” art new again?
Richman: I learned from improvisers (The Velvet Underground). To me, that’s just how you do it.
News: How do you strike the right balance of humor and sincerity in your lyrics?
Richman: It’s not quite like that. You just sing. But I do pay attention to vowel sounds. I like to end my lines with hard “A” sounds a lot of the time. For example: “In the first bar things were okay, but in this bar, things were more my way.”
News: What makes my favorite songs of yours stand out are the vivid details that meld with and play off one another like brushstrokes on impressionist paintings. My question, then, is what details in your life shine out like inspiration for your next song? What kinds of things do you pay attention to when you walk through the world?
Richman: Colors stand out for me as I walk down the street. This, for me, has always been so. But for me, all the details in the world are no good unless the singer feels something. And if that happens, all the details take care of themselves.
News: What kind of music or art has inspired you or made you happy this week?
Richman: Reading the new book “The Story of Art Without Men,” by Katy Hessel. In this book I’ve encountered fabulous painters.
News: Your two most recent albums “SA!” (2018) and “Want to Visit My Inner House?” (2021) seemed to meditate on mortality and existential themes more than the previous albums. Do you believe that those themes emerged by virtue of getting older? Is the second album a nod to the interiority we were all forced into during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Richman: No, nothing to do with any of that. That’s an interesting take you have on my two recent records. From my point of view, there wasn’t much about mortality on either one! And … I’m not quite sure what an existential theme would be … at least as it applies to my stuff. I just sing and each take might have whole different words than the one before it, and I don’t know how the albums will sound or what songs will be on them until they are finished.
These recent records, like most of mine, have lots of songs on them that got made up as we recorded, and one of the great things about working with Jerry [Harrison] again is … say … take a song like “Want to Visit My Inner House.” I play the song, Jerry listens and just plays whatever he hears. I usually don’t say a thing as to what he should play. In the case of that song, playing it with Jerry changed the song: I ended up adding new sub-melodies and things. That’s partly why there are two versions on the record so the audience can hear two different approaches. If we’d have included a third take, that would have been different again.
News: What should attendees expect to see, hear and feel at your Tuesday, Feb. 27, show at Antioch College’s Foundry Theater?
Richman: Do what we do: Just show up and see what happens!
“LIVE! On Stage: Jonathan Richman featuring Tommy Larks on drums!” will be held at the Foundry Theater on Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on Antioch’s website at http://www.bit.ly/3UHNQPm; general admission is $30, and Antioch College student tickets are $5.