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We've been following Chester Gardens, a new mixed use building across from Chester Creek Cafe / At Sara's Table for quite sometime now. We've also always been quite curious to see what would be filling the new retail spaces on the first level of the building. We talked with building owner Carla Blumberg a few months ago and was told that a tattoo parlor would be opening in one of the spaces. Well ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to Benchmark Tattoo & Gallery, a place we are very proud to have as our first featured business in The Local Spotlight.

Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery

Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery

Benchmark Tattoo & Art Gallery is owned and operated by Kyle Allen Grover. Originally from the area, then transplanted across the country to Denver, Colorado, Kyle has been professionally tattooing for over 15 years. Since his move in 2007 he has been looking at new ways to see how tattooing could be even more relevant to himself and his line of work, but also to figure out a way of how to contribute something great to a profession that has given him so much. When moving back to Duluth in 2011 the idea of a special tattoo parlor was back on his mind.

Fast forward to the present and you'll discover Benchmark Tattoo & Gallery at 1831 East Eighth Street in Duluth. To be honest, the first time we walked past the space we saw signage in the windows for a tattoo shop, art gallery, and a tea shop and we were quite pleased with the mix of tenants thinking all three were in separate retail spaces. Then we took a look inside the windows and discovered that the tattoo and art gallery were actually one. Of course we had to go in. 

Kyle Grover, owner and lead tattoo artist of Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery in Duluth.

Kyle Grover, owner and lead tattoo artist of Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery in Duluth.

Meet Kyle. He's the owner of Benchmark Tattoo and Gallery which opened June 2nd right in here in Duluth. We stopped in to see just what his unique concept was all about and boy are we glad we did.

Kyle currently works by himself at his newly opened tattoo shop and gallery. The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday typically from 11am-9pm and is closed on Sundays and Mondays, but "that's just for right now, it's subject to change here and there" Kyle informed us depending on his travel schedule.

So when looking to open a tattoo parlor, what made Kyle think to include the gallery space? "I've seen it in a couple of other shops" Kyle said, stating that it is a growing trend in the larger metropolitan markets and especially on the coasts. It makes sense though when you think about it. Tattoos are art, gallery space includes art... which means that they both are probably pulling a crowd that enjoys art... so therefore why not include it in one? It might not be the most conventional way of thinking of art but it's for sure a movement catching on quite rapidly.

Chester Gardens was recently finished on the corner of 8th Street and North 19th Avenue East

Chester Gardens was recently finished on the corner of 8th Street and North 19th Avenue East

When selecting a space for his new concept he chose Chester Gardens. "I wish there was more of this in town" Kyle explained and quickly added "there's a lot of this in Denver, except rent is five times the cost." When the Chester Gardens was announced over a year ago, it was made clear that the building was to focus on local businesses and have a strong sense of community to it. "I was really excited when I saw that she was going to start working on this project...so I started talking with her and signed a lease right away last fall when they broke ground" Kyle explained. His shop then became one of the first tenants in arguably what we believe is one of the best constructed, designed, and thought out buildings and developments in Duluth in quite some time.

Tattoo parlor space within Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery.

Tattoo parlor space within Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery.

When we asked him on more specifics about why he chose Duluth for his shop Kyle simply said "Duluth is craving this." While the shop is different due to it including gallery space, it is also different pertaining to the tattoo parlor. One way specifically is through the practices used for tattooing. "I've been doing this for the last 15 years and last year I switched to just all disposable products because there's a lot more people friendly products {out there now}." Not only is Benchmark an interesting concept, it's also a new image and vibe to a traditional tattoo parlor. One that we think looks straight out of a magazine. 

We were curious as to how Duluth was accepting this new idea to a pretty much solidified idea and concept of tattoo shops; Kyle assured us "reception has been good so far." He's not a new comer to this business so he knows the ropes. "My biggest thing is that I am really trying to go slow and hire slow" he stated, " {I} really want a place that people will know they're coming to get quality tattoos and quality art."

Gallery space with in Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery.

Gallery space with in Benchmark Tattoo and Art Gallery.

 "It's interesting because you'll get a lot of people that are dining over at Sara's Table and they can only see the art gallery sign... so they'll do like a u-turn at the sidewalk because they'll walk and see that tattoo and go ooooooohhhh" he explained to us. Yes we laughed. Yet, for those who come in they're pleasantly surprised. "I've already had a lot of neighbors coming in and looking around saying 'This doesn't looking like a tattoo parlor.'"

We asked about changing up the traditional tattoo parlour scene in the Twin Ports and what Kyle thinks about it. "I think it's a good thing," stating that its good to add something new to not only the neighborhood, but the city of Duluth.  "A lot of people that I have gotten feedback from so far are really receptive to it."

 So about that gallery space. It's great, it's unique, and it's one of a kind. Plus it's free! "It's a lot different than what most galleries do in town" Kyle said, adding that "there's a lot of galleries in town, so the ability to be different is gonna be a plus." The gallery is booked through next year already which clearly shows it success already. It will also host gallery openings celebrating new artists and exhibitions complete with hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine. "We'll be bringing in as many guest artists as we can from around the country" Kyle explained about both the gallery and tattoo space.

We finished up our time at Benchmark Tattoo and Gallery and asked Kyle if there was anything else he would like to add. He simply said "I'm to glad to be here." 

We're glad to welcome Benchmark Tattoo and Gallery to the city of Duluth. It's a great concept. It's an urban concept. It's a taste of Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York, right here in our own city.

From all of us here at CDINDULUTH, we wish you the best of luck in your business endeavors!  

Visit Benchmark Tattoo and Gallery's website here. They also have a Facebook page complete with photos of their work here. Interested in the art within the gallery space? Visit Kristin Grover's website (the artist pictured above) here.