Nestled between an elementary school and a church in Eagle River is Eagle River Tattoo. While this may seem an unusual collection of businesses in one block, the neighbors aren’t complaining – and haven’t been for their nearly 9 years in business.
Owners Don and Debra Yarian credit their positive community ties for the ability of their business to continue in such an unlikely neighborhood. The proximity of their shop to Eagle River Elementary School is a key reason for their location.
The Yarians decided to stay in Alaska – and Eagle River in particular – after Don retired from the military in 2000. Both Don and Deb then worked at Anchorage Tattoo, but the long commute away from their home and children was not what was best for their family. After considering opening their own shop for some time, a vacancy opened at their current location at 11127 Old Eagle River Road. With four boys going through Eagle River Elementary just across the street, taking the plunge was an obvious choice.
The Yarians were able to spend time volunteering in the Open Optional Program at Eagle River Elementary, which their boys were part of. Don would volunteer to help with math, and Deb contributed to creating the sets for the program’s plays and helped with Craft Days.
The closeness of the family did not disintegrate as three of the four boys have graduated from high school. Two of them now also work at Eagle River Tattoo, and their other two sons have put in their hours as well. The Yarians cite many benefits to owning a true family business. They can collaborate on projects and each contribute their best individual strengths, and there is no atmosphere of competition among the artists, since they are all in it together.
“We’re living the dream – making a living doing what we love. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Even though their volunteer hours at Eagle River Elementary are no longer required, the Yarians are still making regular contributions to the community.
Gift certificates for their quality services are often seen at local silent auctions – sometimes ultimately going for more than the value of the certificate. They are generous in their contributions to various local fundraisers, from fire and police to getting kids to soccer camp.
The donations to the community are not some type of marketing ploy – the Yarians truly love the community and want to help others find success in their endeavors. They chose to settle in Eagle River because “it’s the only place in Alaska that feels like a town.” They mention what a great place it is for kids because so many destinations are close and walkable and the town feels safe.
While in times gone by tattoo shops may have once carried a certain seedy reputation, those days are past. The tattooists at Eagle River Tattoo are all skilled artists, who share their craft with anyone and everyone. The Yarians notice they have far more parent – and even grandparent – customers than young adult customers.
People from all walks of life come through their doors, and that includes local law enforcement. Deb assures the community that if APD or State Trooper cars are parked in front of the shop, they are there as customers, not on official business.
For first time customers, the Yarians recommend getting exactly what you want. They note some clients will avoid a certain area of their body for fear it may hurt more. “They all hurt,” they say. The pain is temporary, but the tattoo you really want will last.
While Deb enjoys all styles of tattoos, she particularly likes florals and portraits. Don gravitates toward Japanese style and American traditional artwork. Together with their sons, they can meet almost any tattoo need.
Eagle River Tattoo is located at:
Sara Kennedy is a special education teacher in the Anchorage School District and a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She likes to swim, bike and run around Alaska, and camp and fish with her family.