Scarff returns to doing what she loves

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Three months after a tornado destroyed her business, INKspiration Tattoo owner Crystal Scarff is up and running at a new location, in downtown McGregor. Here, Scarff preps Brenda Mohs for a tattoo. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

INKspiration Tattoo now open

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Crystal Scarff plainly remembered her cell phone going off Wednesday evening, July 19. There was a tornado warning for the area.

At similar warnings, Scarff said she usually headed to the basement of the building at 330 Main St., in McGregor, that served as the home of her business, INKspiration Tattoo. However, that night was different.

“Tornadoes don’t come down here. Let’s chill,” she recalled telling her client and others gathered in the shop at the time.

Soon, the lights began to flicker.

“It was strange,” she said. “That never happened.”

Then, they went out.

“But they came back on, and I kept doing my job,” she remarked.

The lights went out again.

This time, said Scarff, the group in the shop began to wonder what was going on, so they flocked to the door. One woman went to get something out of her car. As she tried to get back inside, the door wouldn’t shut. That’s when they knew something was wrong.

“When we were on the stairwell [to get to the basement], I think that’s when the building fell over,” Scarff said. “We were in the basement for a minute. Water was starting to flood in and we could smell gas.”

“When we went upstairs,” she continued, “I heard someone scream.”

The top level of the building was obliterated, as was much of the level below it, which was
Scarff’s apartment. Bricks were deposited in heaps atop vehicles parked beside and in front of the building.

“It didn’t really hit me until I crossed the street that I was walking over the building’s bricks,” Scarff shared. “I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing.”

With the building destroyed, then torn down a few days later, she immediately went to work securing a new location. It just so happened Dr. Jim Arvidson’s former dental office, in downtown McGregor, was available.

Leaving McGregor was never an option, said Scarff.

“I love McGregor. I know everybody and I love the river,” she said. “I would’ve built my own place if I had to.”

In the months since the tornado, she’s been hard at work updating the building, including installation of a new floor with help from her cousin, Josh Wade. The ceilings, lights and counter tops were also re-done.

Little was salvageable from the old building, so Scarff has all-new equipment, as well.

“I had insurance on the business,” she explained. “I used that to get the essentials.”

INKspiration officially opened at its new location on Oct. 16. Scarff’s first client was the man she’d been tattooing when the tornado hit.

Scarff said she’s happy to be back doing what she loves, and is thankful for the support she’s received since July 19.

“I’m thankful we’re a tight-knit community,” she commented. “We care for each other and we’re helping each other all the time.”

INKspiration Tattoo will open Monday through Friday, from noon to 8 p.m., at 228 Main St. Call (563) 329-2065 for more information or to make an appointment.

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