on giving up


Billy Joe's Tattoo
301 Broadway
Nashville, TN 37201  

Question: What’s wrong with the address above? Anyone? There is something terribly wrong with that address and the name of the corresponding tenant. Anyone have a guess? Okay, I’ll tell you.

What’s wrong is that 301 Broadway is the former American National Bank building — one of the many branches the company owned throughout Nashville long before it was consumed by AmSouth. It’s one of the coolest buildings in Nashville, in the heart of downtown on 3rd and Broadway, with a storied past steeped in the history of the city. What’s wrong is that it’s home to a place called friggin Billie Joe’s Tattoo.

Talk all you want about revitalizing downtown Nashville — the fact that there’s a tattoo parlor occupying this prime, historic real estate downtown is a tragedy, and it broadcasts one thing to both residents and visitors: we’ve given up. We can’t make it happen for downtown Nashville, sorry. I mean, it would be one thing if it were vacant. That would be okay. That says “rent is currently too high for just any tenant, because, come on, this is downtown here, not just anyone can move in.” But the existence of Billie Joe’s Tattoo says “well, I guess a tattoo parlor is about as good as it gets, and I need the money.”


But, on the other hand, rent is high everywhere else in the city. I got a haircut at Smitty’s — a great barber I found downtown, finally. Randy Smith owns the business, which was his father’s, dating back to 1965. He’s currently crammed in a tiny suite in the Financial Center on Church, with his original Belmont barber chairs, his father’s beautifully-restored mirror, and even a traditional striped barber pole, all sitting anachronistically in a suite that looks like something out of Office Space. He’s booked up with appointments all day, and even he can’t afford a place downtown that would be a little more suited to the character of a barber. So what’s the deal? Is the tattoo business really that good?

It’s a real shame. I don’t have anything against tattoo parlors, don’t get me wrong. I just think it’s a terrible sign for the state of downtown Nashville that this is even possible. I also think it’s an aesthetic abomination to have what is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest buildings in that area desecrated with that blaring neon sign. This place belongs in Printer’s Alley.

I hope, for the sake of downtown Nashville, that Billie Joe’s tenancy at 301 Broadway is temporary.

Side-note: What’s up with the little fish on the neon sign? Is this, uh, like a Christian tattoo parlor? Does such a thing even exist?

8 Comments so far

  1. doug (unregistered) on April 16th, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

    “What’s up with the little fish on the neon sign? Is this, uh, like a Christian tattoo parlor? Does such a thing even exist?”

    Yeah, there was an article in either the Tennessean or the Scene recently – and it is, in fact, a Christian tattoo parlor. No “666” or devil tattoo’s, thank you very much.

  2. brittney (unregistered) on April 16th, 2006 @ 2:46 pm

    No devil horns or pentagrams either. It’s a Christian tattoo parlor on Lower Broad. Pure freakin’ Nashville.

  3. Chris Wage (unregistered) on April 16th, 2006 @ 8:18 pm

    That’s fuckin hilarious.

  4. Lesley (unregistered) on April 17th, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

    Oh, I was totally going to suggest that maybe they deal heroin, too (“little fish”). Silly me.

  5. adrian (unregistered) on April 21st, 2006 @ 8:01 am

    Yeah, we’ve got the same problem here in Houston. Not Christian tattoo parlors but the loss of historical buildings to either demolition or stupid uses. Revitalization? Bah!

  6. Billy Joe Henry (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2006 @ 11:04 am

    We are purchasing this beautiful building for our tattoo shop so it isn’t temporary!! We fell in love with this building when we saw it and decided to move here. We were approved by the historical society for our sign and have had their approval on everything. The reason we wanted this location is because we aren’t the typical tattoo shop and we have been overwhelmed with business from locals and tourists alike. They love having something besides a bar and knick knack shop downtown. As for this being a Christian shop we started our ministry 8 years ago and have been very effective. If you wish to speak to me personally I would love to talk to anyone that chooses to call or stop by. As for you Chris I am sorry that you are so unhappy in your life. We are very blessed!
    God Bless You!
    Billy Joe and Lynn

  7. Jackson Miller (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

    Billy Joe,

    Why do you say Chris is unhappy in his life? I happen to know him personally and I can assure you he leads a relatively happy life.

    Frankly I think it was a cheap shot to try and counter his negativity towards Christianity. It is as if you are saying “you must be miserable unless you are a Christian”. I hope that is not the basis of your ministry. I don’t recall reading such half-hearted apologies in red ink. Then again, maybe your ministry is kinda like your tattoo parlor, a tacky interior to a beautiful facade.

  8. Chris Barroll (unregistered) on May 5th, 2006 @ 10:37 am

    yea, Chris’ blog is teeming with happiness. He really seems to be loving life. That’s what I do when I’m feeling the happiest. Complain about stupid stuff that has no real or lasting consequence in my life. I put people down for living their dreams, and trying to find their purpose on this earth, for trying to actually have a positive impact on people….’cause having an “acceptable” business in an old bank is way more important than trying to help kids that might actually be on heroin.

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