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Nile

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There’s a place in Riverwest where you can get a tattoo, a nipple piercing, a Mohawk and a nice cup of tea, all without leaving the building. The place is Nile Salon, 707 E. Center St. Nile, which opened in April, is a salon, tattoo/piercing shop and jewelry store all rolled into one. Co-owned by husband and wife Jon and Jodi Westmore, Nile aims to take the sleaze and intimidation factor out of tattoos and piercing. Yet despite glossy fashion magazines, flowers, scented candles and an assortment of herbal teas scattered throughout the salon, Nile boasts a distinct Riverwest vibe. “[Jon and I] are artists trapped in business people’s bodies,” says Jodi, sitting on a plush white couch in the tattoo shop (Nile is divided into two areas: hair salon and tattoo and piercing space). The Westmores, both of whom have business backgrounds, full-time office jobs and eight cumulative tattoos, opened Nile because they saw a community need for a female-friendly tattoo shop, and to satisfy their creative sides. “I’m a big fan of tattoos, piercing and beauty,” says Jodi, who also designs jewelry sold in the salon area. Customer service is what sets Nile apart from its competitors, say the Westmores. The shop offers services ranging from cuts to color to septum piercing. “Going into a tattoo shop can be a very intimidating experience,” explains Jodi. “I end up having to bring a whole bunch of women with me.” In contrast to tattoo shops staffed by gruff, grungy biker dudes, Nile has a friendly atmosphere and honors the ceremonial aspect of tattooing. Conversely, the beauty salon aims to take the intimidation factor out of guys’ haircuts, says Jon, adding that he avoids cutting his shoulder-length hair thanks to salon phobia. Although Nile is the Westmores’ first foray into the beauty business, both have years of business experience. Jon, Nile’s operational manager, and Jodi, the account manager, owned a screen printing and graphic design business in Tucson, Arizona, where they used to live. Jodi has experience handling accounting and big budgets for schools. They also rely on the advice of a salon-owning mentor in Chicago. They are grateful for a soon-to-be received Retail Investment Fund (RIF) grant from the City of Milwaukee, which will help them cover equipment and renovation costs. The Westmores remodeled Nile space, which they rent. “When we came in there was no ceiling. We did the drywalling and flooring,” says Jodi. Nile, which has five full-time employees, may expand to another location sometime in the next couple of years, but lack of space makes expansion in the current location impossible. Although the Westmores, both Milwaukee natives, don’t live in Riverwest, they say they love the neighborhood for its friendliness, support of small businesses and diversity. (Nile’s clientele ranges from little kids who need trims to punk kids who want Mohawks, says Jodi). The east side has gotten too commercialized, says Jon. “I hope we won’t get to the point where Center Street is like Brady Street,” he adds. “Riverwest is an artistic, creative community; Nile fits well.” The best part of doing business in Riverwest is the positive response and friendly neighboring businesses. Club Timbuktu’s owners pass out Nile fliers; Fuel Cafe “feeds us,” says Jodi with a laugh. “The neighbors are happy that we’re bringing money and jobs into the neighborhood,” she adds. “It feels good to create positions for artistic people in the community.” Nile is open for business six days a week. Hair Salon: Tues-Fri, 10 am to 9 pm and Sat, 10 am to 6 pm. Tattoos: Tues-Fri, 11 am to 9 pm, Sat noon to 10 pm. Call 263-6453 to schedule an appointment.
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