From the white lettering to the demented Vitale Brothers mural on its side wall, “Evil Don” Seneker’s roomy tattoo shop at the corner of Central Avenue and 21st Street North has been a landmark in St. Pete’s Grand Central District for as long as the area’s been cool. Seneker, a musician who’s been tattooing since ‘91, took up residence in 2004; the distinctive Vitale piece, with its gleefully rambunctious kids, came along roughly three years ago, as the city first started to become muralized.
In all-too-common change, though, Seneker has been forced to relocate, a victim of the rising rents that are plaguing downtown St. Petersburg and the surrounding area. A Miami developer bought most of the block, and Evil Don is the first casualty along a hip stretch of town that also includes Taphouse 61 and Love Food Central.
“I wasn’t surprised, I kind of expected it,” he says. “I was a little sad, but we saw it coming.”
Seneker and fellow artist Aaron Michael vacated the property a few weeks ago, but they didn’t have to go far — in fact, they’ve still got the same landlord. The new space, just a door or two down at 17 21st Street North, is literally less than a stone’s throw from the old shop. It’s smaller than the original space, making it more affordable, but they’ve already done the space up nicely, recreating the chill, modern vibe of their previous home.
“We’re off the beaten path, ever so slightly,” says Seneker with a laugh.
He doesn’t do a whole lot of walk-ins these days; most of Evil Don’s business comes from regulars and folks who discover his work online and reach out for an appointment, so the move hasn’t got him worried about losing income. A more worrisome prospect might be the sheer number of tattoo shops that have popped up all over the Bay area over the last decade, but Seneker, who went full-time in ‘93 after a friend talked him into buying some tattooing gear and he started making more money in a day than he was making at his regular job, is an established figure in the scene.
“It’s slightly saturated, but I’m just glad I started when I did,” he says. “It still keeps me busy.”
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