MOORHEAD — Chuck Kesler was burned out. After more than 20 years in the piercing business, he asked himself if he could envision another 20 or more.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he had a lot of time at home to think about the future. He came to the conclusion he still enjoyed the trade. He just needed a little break and a change of scenery.
On Feb. 8, he struck out on his own with Chuck's Body Art at 2020 1st Ave. S. in Moorhead.
Kesler got his start in the business in 1999 with a piercing apprenticeship at Sterling Rose in Fargo. In 2002, Kesler opened Dead RockStar at 4511 15th Ave. S. in Fargo with his sisters, Jenny Gunderson and Ellie Maher, and parents, Kathy and Doug Kesler. The business remains open today at 3401 Interstate Blvd. S.
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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kesler is operating by appointment only. For now, he said he is not doing any piercings "under the mask," which includes noses, septums, lips and tongues.
"From a piercer's perspective, I miss doing those. They're fun to do and there's cool jewelry," he said. "I'm just erring on the side of caution until we have a better handle on everything."
Once that happens, Kesler said he'll pierce anything from head to toe.
He said a lot of people are surprised to hear he does exotic piercings. Many also assume he doesn't do basic earlobe piercings.
"I think people think I consider doing them a waste of time, but I love doing earlobes," he said.
Kesler is also temporarily limiting his branding services until the pandemic is under control. Branding is a form of scarification.
"That sounds intense when you tell people, but instead of ink it's like a custom scar," Kesler said. "The way we do it, it probably doesn't hurt any worse than a tattoo. It doesn't feel awesome, but it's really not that bad."
Something Kesler is excited about is his jewelry inventory.
"When I first started in the business, a lot of the jewelry was so basic. It was all silver hoops, the occasional cubic zirconia," he said. "In the last five to 10 years, a lot of these companies pushed the bar up. I've seen more of a trend of people combining piercing with fine jewelry."
Kesler said business has been good thus far. Many of his clients have followed him since his early days at Sterling Rose.
"I have to admit, it's so humbling. I really try and keep level-headed. I don't like egos getting in the way of things. I'm just some guy who pokes holes in people," he said. "A few people came in last week that I've pierced at all the shops I've worked in, clients I've had for 20 years. It's kind of cool to look at it that way."