PALATINE, Ill. (STMW) — Phil and Beth Cisco want you to know they aren’t dangerous, they’re artists.
When the veteran tattoo artists attempted to put their Maximum Tattoo store in northwest suburban Palatine, it was voted down by the Village Board.
“If we were opening a flower stand, they probably wouldn’t have looked at us that hard,” said Phil Cisco, co-owner, along with wife, Beth, of Maximum Tattoo, set to open May 14 in the River Run Shopping Center, 20594 N. Milwaukee Ave., in unincorporated Lake County near Deerfield.
“They have a Deerfield mailing address, but we had nothing to do with them,” said Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal.
Nevertheless, last week, a day after they posted their large “Tattoo” sign outside their empty and under-construction store, a passerby ducked her head in and asked when she could come in to have her and her husband tattooed with their child’s feet.
“There’s a demand for this out here,” said Beth Cisco, who points to statistics that show 25 percent of the people between 18 and 50 have tattoos. “Everyone’s bent on keeping tattoo places out of their town, but you can’t tell me 25 percent of the population are criminals or gang bangers … that’s a huge demographic of people.”
In fact, officials reticent about the clientele a tattoo parlor might attract might be surprised at their target customers.
“Suburban, middle-aged, middle-class women are the biggest group of tattooees right now,” Beth Cisco said. “I can’t tell you how many soccer moms come in.”
She has attained a certain amount of notoriety in the Chicago tattoo community for having tattooed former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s face on a client during his first trial. The tattoo went viral on the web and made the Chicago Sun-Times, Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune.
An accomplished artist with velvet, Beth Cisco claims to have made the world’s largest velvet Elvis, a 12-foot-by-12-foot feat she said was recognized by Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
The Ciscos have tattooed celebrities, numerous bands, professional athletes and TV newscasters.
Beth Cisco was an budding artist at an early age, said her mother, Carol Mulvaney, of Mount Prospect.
“Beth was drawing at age 4 or 5, I can tell you that,” said Mulvaney, who said she has so far resisted getting a tattoo herself.
The Ciscos say they knew each other when growing up on the Northwest Side of Chicago and both were attracted to tattooing at an early age – under the current statutory age of 18. They’ve made it their life’s work and lifestyle.
Both worked in the landmark The Tattoo Factory in Chicago’s Uptown before deciding to break out on their own. Phil Cisco worked there 20 years.
“He’s the best this side of the Mississippi, but he’s down to earth and easy to talk to,” Beth said of her husband and cited others in the business who say the same.
Mitch O’Connell is an artist and illustrator in Chicago with three published books on tattooing and art, six covers of Newsweek and published illustrations in Playboy, Rolling Stone, Time and the Chicago Sun-Times. He holds both the Ciscos in high regard.
“He’s known as the best in the business” O’Connell said of Phil Cisco. “They make a great team.”
Phil Cisco is known for having his own style and Beth says she loves portraits.
“I do portraits – Phil doesn’t – so we compliment each other in that aspect,” Beth Cisco said. “We try not to pigeon-hole ourselves into a particular style.”
The Ciscos say their biggest selling point will be their work and service but, obviously, the fact there are so few parlors in the Northwest Suburbs means location will also be a draw. When Beth Cisco was at The Tattoo Factory, she noticed her clients were suburbanites making a long commute.
“I’d ask my customers where they’re from and they’d say Highland Park, Deerfield, Northbrook, Hanover Park, Wheeling, Arlington Heights,” Beth said. “I said, ‘We’re neighbors.’”
In addition to their big sign along Milwaukee Avenue, the Ciscos are aggressively marketing their store on social media, including a website, Facebook, Yelp, foursquare and Twitter.
The 950-square-foot store has prices that start at around $50 and can go into the thousands for extensive work.
Phil and Beth Cisco have both undergone extensive work and estimate that “60 to 70 percent” of their bodies are covered with tattoos, from their necks to their ankles.
“I wish I had more space on my body,” Phil Cisco said.
They won’t do gang symbols nor will they work on kids under 18 years old, but they did say the most popular tattoo is one with writing. Poems, prayers, Bible quotes, inspirational quotes or “lines they just make up,” Phil Cisco said.
Tattoos are not only serious business, but very personal forms of expression, Beth Cisco points out.
“One time a customer asked me to do portrait work of a little boy who passed away,” Beth said. “The boy was his son. He wanted him with him wherever he went. I was looking at the picture and I started crying and had to go in the back ’til I was ready.”
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