Demolition move allows business to make its mark on Grangemouth town centre
It’s not often forced eviction due to the imminent destruction of a building is welcomed but a tattoo studio in Grangemouth believes the move will be good for their business and the town.
Studio IX opened its first studio in La Porte Precinct back in 2010 with Murray Robertson, wife Gayle and their daughter Katt gaining plenty of clients and making a good name for themselves.
This success story was interrupted somewhat by last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, but it did not stop Studio IX moving and expanding the business into an amazing looking studio in Kerse Road.
However, just as COVID-19 restrictions eased and clients got used to the new location and remarkable decor, another bombshell was dropped.
Falkirk Council told them it was going to demolish the block their studio was located in.
Murray and Gayle said they were both “gutted” when they learned they were going to lose their new look Studio IX, which they had just spent a year-and-a-half fitting out and refurbishing.
Murray said: "We had just built the new studio like a VIP area for our clients as a thank you to them for sticking with us through the years. We were told about the demolition two months before we were due to open our new premises."
The premises at 1 Kerse Road is earmarked to come down later this year – no official date has been announced – and be used as a site for “further development” by the council.
Meanwhile, organisations and businesses housed in the block have been involved in talks with the local authority to find premises to relocate to.
Grangemouth Citizens Advice Bureau is planning to move to a vacant premises in York Arcade on the corner with York Square and the award-winning La Gondola Fish and Chip Shop will be moving – now planning permission has been granted – further down La Porte Precinct into the former Portonian Tea Rooms.
And, as for Studio IX, they have been lucky enough to secure their dream location – the long vacant former Chinese restaurant above York Arcade.
Murray and the team have had their eye on the York Arcade premises for a number of years.
"We tried to get it years ago," Murray said. “But the time just wasn’t right for us to make the move. For a studio like ours, we have not only found a suitable premises for ourselves but somewhere that will allow us to bring something to the town centre and that’s something that is important to me.”
To say Murray is community minded is an understatement – the tattoo artist famously painted the Remembrance wall design at the Royal British Legion HQ in Dundas Street while he was still recovering from major surgery.
He said: "We are delighted with the move for the business, but also for what we have a chance to bring to Grangemouth town centre. We could bring a focal point to the town, something that can bring people in from other areas.
“This site has been vacant for almost 20 years but it was always a landmark for the town centre. We want it to have a kind of New York loft apartment look, something really attractive people want to visit.”
It was the team’s ambition and the look of their existing studio – the one soon to be demolished – that helped them secure the massive premises above York Arcade.
Murray said: “The existing studio allowed us to show the council what we can do and helped us learn what’s possible and what’s not possible. We’ve never been like a traditional tattoo parlour, which are normally covered by what we call tattoo flash – pictures of tattoo designs for people to choose from.
“We don’t have that – people are unique so their tattoo designs should be unique.”
And, with this in mind, Murray has decided to try something different with the new studio, which he hopes will be open for business in around three months.
"This is going to be the biggest tattoo studio outside of Glasgow so we are recruiting four new artists to train from scratch. This allows us to have the standard which we want for the studio.
"We have already interviewed two people, who are both exceptional artists in their own right and are going to bring a lot to the team.”
Last year COVID-19 forced Studio IX to shut its doors, but it was still a busy place during the first lockdown of that year, as Murray and the team created PPE for care staff.
“That was a real community effort,” said Gayle. “We had clients coming in with materials for us and then delivering the PPE to places like Edinburgh.”
After the country had more than enough PPE, the Studio IX team found themselves with a lot of time on their hands.
Gayle said: “It meant we couldn’t work for a long time – we were one of the first tattoo studios to close and one of the last to re-open. I think in the last year we have only been open for around four months.”
As a tattoo studio, Murray and the team were already practising high levels of cleanliness and hygiene before the COVID-19 outbreak, so they already had a head start on most businesses when it came to re-opening safely.
In recent weeks, with the relaxation in COVID-19 restrictions, the existing studio has been very busy and has even seen clients coming from as far away as Newcastle to get their tattoos.
Murray and the team hope the new studio will attract even more people to the town.
He said: "I want this to be a good move for us and for the town centre – this is Grangemouth and its a great place.”