Chester Bennington opens Club Tattoo at Planet Hollywood
The salesman behind the counter showing body jewelry and the new line of fashions looks vaguely familiar. The man with the paintbrush and the laborer on his knees laying tile trigger more recognition. Yes, in fact, the guy with three job titles at the new Club Tattoo in Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile is none other than rock star Chester Bennington of Linkin Park!
He is not shy as an investor owner in pitching in to help out and do whatever duty calls. Rock group frontman Chester is partnered with Thora and Sean Dowdell in the lifestyle boutique, which is their fifth store. They opened the first one in Phoenix 14 years ago and expanded with three more in Arizona. The Las Vegas outpost, the most ambitious to date, has just been unveiled, and they plan to keep on going.
During construction of all the stores, and Vegas was no exception, Chester was on his hands and knees helping lay tile, and he happily helped paint walls. The very first day it opened, he was behind the counter selling merchandise as fast as he could!
I talked with the trio as our contributing photographer Erik Kabik shot this exclusive photo gallery for Vegas DeLuxe. I get to hang out and look cool all day long. I’ve been promoted to VP in charge of sales!
Thora Dowdell: I caught him selling jewelry to some hottie in our store yesterday, so he works, as well.
CB: It is always funny because I come in and I automatically switch gears and go into Club Tattoo mode. I greet customers and try to get them to make the right decisions. I ask if I can help them find a size.
TD: I have actually taken photos of Chester offering a customer a bottle of water, and that truly is what makes Club Tattoo so special. He has been with us in the trenches. This morning and yesterday, he has been in the store, he feels our pain, he knows things operationally, things that are going on; he comes in and is passionate about it. Club Tattoo is not just a tattoo studio: It is a lifestyle. Because of the fashion, we embrace every walk of life. There is something for everyone at Club Tattoo. There was a gentleman yesterday who didn’t recognize who Chester was, and he became the salesman again. That shows that Club Tattoo is very well rounded and shows that is a part of this lifestyle.
Robin Leach: How did you all get hooked up? How did you decide what products and merchandise should go in the store?Club Tattoo owners Thora and Steve Dowdell and Chester Bennington.
CB: Sean and I met when I was just getting into high school, and he was pretty close to getting out of high school. We started a band Grey Daze based out of Phoenix. We were in a band for probably six years during that time. We did well for ourselves. There was a really great club that we would play at all the time, and Sean decided he wanted to open the first Club Tattoo right next to it. That was the first one 14 years ago. Sean was solo at that time, and I was working at Burger King and riding my skateboard back then. But I laid the tile and did the painting, and that’s how it all started.
RL: Why did you wait so long to come to the No. 1 city in the world for tattoos?
CB: It’s a good question. We wanted to take things one step at a time. When you start up a business, you start shooting from the hip, you have to go through the trial and error in terms of the kinds of artists working for you, working out all of the kinks. They did a good job with the first location, and it became very successful, so they opened a second location. They asked me to be a partner in it, and I turned them down. I still kick myself in the ass now and then for that one.
But I joined as a partner for the third, fourth and now the fifth. It was five, six years ago we opened store No. 3 and about three years ago opened store No. 4. The plan when we started talking about opening the third store in Mesa, we had our sights on Las Vegas. We knew that we wanted to take our shops and make them internationally known and an incredible chain.
TD: It took us three years to arrive in the Vegas market. We originally were trying to work something out with the Hard Rock, but we didn’t find our calling there. We signed a lease with the Cosmopolitan we laugh about it now because they still haven’t opened as we were working through that, we found the Miracle Mile was a better brand for us. Great amounts of traffic, and the patronage here is a good indication of who our clients are. We decided to come over and seize the opportunity here at Miracle Mile. It took us a year to build the store to the day, and it is fabulous. We have a beautiful store. We have talented artists working for us. We currently offer five tattoo stations and one private piercing room in our 3,500 square foot store.
RL: Why is there such a popularity with tattoos, and since this city has one on every corner, do we have too many of them? Is there such a demand?
TD: There is not a tattoo studio or store in the United States that compares to Club Tattoo. We are a retail fashion boutique, as well as doing tattoos and piercings. We also have the largest collection of body jewelry ever. Nothing compares to our store. Las Vegas has 180 shops, but they are typical smoke shops that add in some tattooing.
Sean Dowdell: Why would they keep building casinos here? Because if the next one is better, it becomes the next hottest property. That is what we did. We did the hottest tattoo studio in the world. We did it in a hot property, and we did it as well as we could, so it won’t be touched for a long time. We have also been doing it for the last 14 years in Arizona, starting off with a modest shop that has grown into the premiere tattoo, body piercing and clothing store in our genre anywhere in the world.
RL: When it comes to body jewelry, what is the most expensive and the least expensive?
TD: One of the most expensive pieces is a 14K gold diamond naval gem, which you can pretty much find on three out of five females in any given city. We have some handmade mother of pearl for ears that are ornate and organic. There are horns and cow bone and mother of pearl, things of that nature. The gold is the most expensive; we use real diamonds. They can run anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 depending on what you have in it.
RL: People are spending that kind of money today on body jewelry?
SD: Surprisingly, there are many different kinds of people from many different financial backgrounds who not only get tattooed, but get pierced. The same woman who would walk into a jewelry store and spend $7,000 on a ring, if she has her bellybutton pierced, why would she not spend the same amount on quality to go there, as well?