Warren native goes ‘Beyond the Chair’ to open tattoo shop

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 20, 2017

 Don Watson opened Beyond the Chair Tattoos on Old 13 Mile Road east of Van Dyke on Sept. 29.

Don Watson opened Beyond the Chair Tattoos on Old 13 Mile Road east of Van Dyke on Sept. 29.

Photo by Brian Louwers

WARREN — Don Watson was born with cerebral palsy, and he lived with the challenges that come with that throughout his young life. He hasn’t walked since an experimental surgery 15 years ago.

While the hand of fate made his childhood dream of becoming a United States Marine impossible, hard work and determination have seen his other dream as a child — to one day own a tattoo shop — become a reality.

“Tattoos have been a part of my life since I was a little kid. My uncles are covered in tattoos. My dad is. I’ve always been around it,” Watson said. “I told my wife, this is what I want to do. Here we are today.”

While he’s not a tattoo artist himself, Watson said he worked in other tattoo shops before he made the move to open his own earlier this year. He left a Walmart job that wasn’t a good fit and went through the two-and-a-half month process of getting the shop ready to open. He said he spent $11,000 getting the rented space on Old 13 Mile east of Van Dyke set up, and he opened for business as Beyond the Chair Tattoos on Sept. 29.

“I want to show people that hope is out there. You can do it. It’s a mind over matter thing,” Watson said. “Too many people out there are too quick to give up. Life is too hard on a lot of people. Everybody has their own story. If everybody gave up, then nobody would be where they’re at now.”

Watson has three tattoo artists working at Beyond the Chair. Apart from his familiarity with the tattoo business, he said running the shop is a good career for him because he’s able to be there all the time.

“The culture of it, I love it. I love the people. You get new customers in every day, and everyone has a story,” Watson said. “You get to listen to people.”

For those who work alongside Watson, listening to him is inspiring.

“He has the best sense of humor of anyone I’ve ever met,” said “Tattuu” Jason Perry, 34, one of the artists at Beyond the Chair, as Watson showed his tattoo of a handicapped parking sign on his right bicep.

Cortney Mourelo, 21, said she came to get tattoo work done at Beyond the Chair after her aunt and uncle stopped by. Asked what she liked about it, she said it’s close to home, for one.

“I was just telling them, I like the vibe here,” Mourelo said.

Watson said tattoos have changed over the years, and so have people’s reasons for getting them. Society’s level of acceptance of tattoos has changed, too.

 “It’s 2017. It’s becoming more accepted today than at any time,” Watson said. “When I told my wife I wanted  to open a shop, I told her I want to be in Warren. This is where everybody knows me. I want to give back. Tattoo shops have kind of a stigma to them. People kind of look down on them still. I want to break that away.”

Watson said he wants to offer more than tattoo work and, eventually, piercings for his customers. He’s looking to become part of the community.

Beyond the Chair Tattoos will host a Beyond Halloween Bash in the shop parking lot at 8527 Old 13 Mile Road beginning at 4 p.m. Oct. 28. There will be apple cider, face painting and a trunk-or-treat (the best-decorated trunk will win a $100 free tattoo from Beyond the Chair). Anyone wishing to participate in the trunk-or-treat should register by calling (586) 838-4949.