For the last couple of years, people in Charleston and beyond have gone gaga over buying food from a truck. How long will it be before we're relying on vehicles for our other needs, like tax assistance or body piercing?
That last one, at least, is now a reality in the Lowcountry. Matt and Melissa Finch, the owners of North Charleston's Exotic Impressions, recently hit the road with their very own mobile piercing business. The couple has been setting up at venues and events, from downtown's Torch to Myrtle Beach Bike Week, poking holes in people's faces all the way. This was an idea they'd had for a long time — Matt's been piercing for 15 years — but first they needed to change the law.
When South Carolina originally enacted the regulations for body piercing for the state, a section regarding mobile units was included. "Basically, anything that a regular studio has to have, a mobile unit has to have as well," Matt says. "At that point we said, hey, they're OK with mobile units. Obviously they're not completely against us or they wouldn't have put that clause in there."
So the Finches went searching for a ride, and they found an old Ford E-Series bus once used by a church. They spent more than a year working on the vehicle, stripping it of everything but the glass in the windows and replacing it all with materials known for their easy clean-up. And, of course, they installed a piercing chair. The Finches don't need a commercial license to drive the bus, but it is over 30-feet long. The spectacle definitely takes up more than a few parking spots.
Still, there was a catch to this new business venture: Brick-and-mortar piercing studios have to have bathrooms with hot and cold running water. The water part was no problem, but the Finches wouldn't be able to install a toilet. The authorities told them they either had to change the law or change the bus. "It would be safer for the clients if we changed the law," Matt says. It took a couple of months for the Finches to write a persuasive argument explaining why the bus would be safer and cleaner for clients without a john, referencing ambulances and mobile blood banks. The lawmakers agreed that the clause was an oversight in the legislation, so Exotic Impressions was granted an exception to the law. Now, they're the first mobile piercing business in the state.
"We've tried to uphold the highest standards possible," Matt says. "There may be a stigma attached to mobile or traveling body modification, but we've done our best to precede all standards and really impress the inspectors and all the people coming in there."
Body modifiers won't be able to get just anything pierced on the bus. The Finches think they'll refrain from doing a few certain piercings — specifically, genital ones — and point out that they already have two physical locations to handle stuff like that. Microdermal and nostril piercings have been pretty popular. "I think most of the people are eager to get pierced in there, even if they don't have something they're wanting to get pierced. They're like, oh what can I get done, I sure would like to get in here," Matt says. And people are attracted to the bus not just for its intended purpose. Groups will pose for pictures in front of it, or drivers will point and wave from the road.
If the mobile business continues like it has been, Matt foresees getting another vehicle, and there are plans to open another studio, too. "Just the idea of a bus doing piercing, I think people often have less of an expectation, and when they put their head in and see how clean it feels and how immaculate it is, they are impressed," he says.