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30 buzzing years

Feb. 6—MOSES LAKE — The Hive was ... well, buzzing Friday afternoon as Moses Lake's first tattoo parlor turned 30.

"The first (client) I did was in line at eight o'clock this morning," said Hive owner Shawn Willmorth. "And we didn't even open until noon. It was awesome to see somebody already camped out there and everything."

That set the tone for the event. By 1 p.m. the small front area was well-packed with people looking over designs and waiting their turn in the chair. Randy Ceravolo, who was manning the front counter, estimated a good 20-25 people had already gotten their tattoos in the first hour. Most of them were getting designs themed around bees and honeycombs in honor of the shop, he added.

The event drew in guest artists from all over, from tattooers just starting out with one or two years under their belts to veterans like Willmorth, who's been in the business for 34 years. He opened The Hive in February 1994 in the little building at 116 W. Broadway.

"We will have over 300 years of combined tattoo experience in here over the course of the weekend," Willmorth said. "They're all personal friends of mine from being in the industry for so long. Most of them I met at conventions over the years."

"I've known Shawn for a long time and he told me this was going on and I said I'll be there," said Danny Warner, who came up from Auburn, California for the occasion. "This is pretty rare. If anyone can get everyone together, it's Shawn."

"I almost had to rent a convention center," Willmorth said.

Warner has been tattooing for about 20 years, he said. For the last 10 he's had his own shop, Lighthouse Tattoo. A tattoo shop that lasts 30 years in the same location is a rarity, he said.

"Only the real salty dudes stick around," Warner said. "It's getting rougher. There's a lot more shops, there's a lot more competition."

Warner was in the process of inking a honeycomb on the inner ankle of Tim Larreau, who had come up from the Tri-Cities. With a full suit, as he described it, Jarreau is no stranger to the chair.

"Most of my stuff is done by local people in the Tri-Cities. The bulk of my suit's done by Matt Brown (owner of Gravity Tattoo, Kennewick) but I'm a frequent at the Tri-Cities Tattoo Convention as well, where a lot of these California guys come in from all over the West Coast."

"We're just supporting Shawn," said Cortney Moreno of Moses Lake, who was having a macabre skull-headed bee tattooed on her arm by artist Holly Spaeth, of Kennewick. "I came here with my fiance and I knew we had to get some stuff done."

"It's been really rewarding and satisfying and I'm super grateful to be here after 30 years," Willmorth said. I didn't know what to expect when I mean I was only 22 years old when I opened the business. I got the opportunity to purchase the building in 05 and that's been a huge blessing."

The tattoo business has come a long way since that first opening, Willmorth said.

"I was the only tattoo artist in the county and the population was 50,000," he said. "And now there's at least 32 tattoo artists in Grant County and the population has doubled."

Joel Martin may be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.