It was a rainy day at the shop, about noon, and the staff was busy tattooing. Thunder boomed and the rain was coming down hard, but no one thought anything of it. The scene was generally serene, just less sunny and more watery than usual. It was cozy — the kind of day you’d want to spend holed up inside.
Apprentice Sam Gorrie was flopped on a couch when she noticed movement from the corner of her eye.
“I was playing on my iPhone, laying facing the door, and I happened to see in my peripheral vision, water pouring in. No one had noticed at the point, so I just kind of freaked out.”
“Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” she shouted.
Startled, her co-workers and their customers stood up to see what was happening. Water rushed beneath the door of their basement-level shop, at 440 S. Maryland Parkway, in the Promenade shopping center across from UNLV.
“By the time I came back with a bucket, the water was all the way to the back,” Gorrie said. “It was so fast.”
Initially she thought paper towels and a mop would stop the problem, but within 20 minutes the water was already up to their ankles. When the fire department arrived, water was already 1 ½ feet deep outside.
Still, the Tatlantis crew thought it would be manageable.
They were loading up their trucks with gear when firefighters told them they had to leave, so they went to a nearby bar to wait out the storm. Later, a co-worker joined them to say that the water had risen to chest level. They thought he was kidding, but went back to find that it was up to their waists.
They had moved their valuable possessions to higher ground, onto bookshelves and desks, but it wasn’t high enough. Opaque brown water covered everything below 3 ½ feet.
After the flooding ceased and the water had retreated or been pumped out, the shop looked like a hurricane had hit it. Soggy papers clung together in the room’s corners. All the wooden furniture had warped and was covered in mud. Each artist lost about $2,000 in personal supplies — ink, tattooing machines, needles, their art — and the space itself was damaged. Paint peeled off walls and the drywall was crumbling.
Worst of all, none of the employees had insurance. Like the fabled city of Atlantis, their shop had been lost. Atlantis was swallowed up by a tsunami, while Tatlantis had been swamped by little more than an inch of heavy rainfall in a city with notoriously useless flood drains. The National Weather Service measured 1.18 inches at McCarran International Airport.
The next day, the building was condemned. Rob Lynn, director of the Clark County Building Department, said his agency looked at 10 units and “yellow-tagged” several. One storefront’s windows had been broken, and there were electrical problems throughout the building. Licensed general and electric contractors would have to assess and repair the spaces before business could resume on many of the properties. Mold was also a threat.
The building’s landlords, Vista Realty, offered Tatlantis a new retail space upstairs, but told they group they were on their own to replace lost property. Initially they thought they would move, but after Vista offered to replace the shop’s drywall, Tatlantis decided to stay.
In the meantime, friendly tattoo shops have offered the staff places to work. Red Handed Tattoo offered space and supplies, as did Fallen Leaf Tattoo and Piercing, so all six Tatlantis artists have temporary homes.
The artists plan to stay put for one to two months to save money. When they return to Tatlantis they’ll re-do the floors and color scheme and will prepare for the future floods with airtight storage containers, sandbags and flood insurance.
The group hopes to be on their own within a couple of months, but they estimate it will cost $15,000 to $20,000 to re-open.
Despite their loss, Tatlantis’ staff has a positive attitude about their sunken shop. There have been good omens — they found eight out of 12 goldfish that lived in Tatlantis’ floor-level pond, and the public’s support has been notable. Artist Yvonne Wiltse set up a PayPal account for donations, and so far they’ve received $600. They’re giving away art for all donations above $20, with a large gift for one woman who donated $440.
“In all honestly, it only affected this part of our lives. We still got to go home, and there was a warm bed,” artist Jeff Mack said. “Thank God it didn’t affect that much more.”
“They were like, ‘It’s like Hurricane Katrina!’” Wiltse said. “I was like, ‘No, it’s not. Don’t say that.”
“It’s like six businesses that are bummin’,” Mack said. “My car was still as dirty as it was before (laughs). It still started up.”
“It could have been so much worse,” Wiltse agreed. “No one died. No one got hurt.”
“You have to expect the unexpected,” Mack said.
For now, they’ll focus on staying above water.
Tatlantis’ PayPal account is registered under the e-mail DonationsforTatlantis@gmail.com.