MANCHESTER — Charlie Morgan was enjoying breakfast at the Red Arrow dinner when he picked up the newspaper and started reading an article about a tattoo removal company that was about to go public.
He then noticed that the patrons to his left and right were both sporting highly visible tattoos, as was the cook across the counter. "A light bulb went off in my head," said the 70-year-old entrepreneur. That was four years ago.
"For the next three years, I tracked information, gathered data, kept thinking about it," he said, "and everything I researched confirmed my belief that the tattoo removal industry is accelerating across the country, because the culture today is, 'Get a tattoo.' "
Every action breeds a reaction, and the popularity of body art, once confined to a small segment of the population, is fueling a boom in tattoo removal — a boom that led Morgan to launch Pellé Medical Spa in Manchester.
The spa, which opened two weeks ago at 159 Frontage Road, also offers laser hair removal, skin resurfacing, scar reduction and Botox, along with aesthetic services like microdermabrasion, chemical peels and facials.
Medical procedures are under the supervision of Dr. Michele Sasmor, a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery, including facial surgery. Executive Director Caroline Pierce is a registered nurse and a graduate of the National Laser Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz. The staff also includes two estheticians and a receptionist.
Morgan and his wife, residents of Bedford, have operated successful storage businesses in Manchester and Salem for years, but this is their first venture into a health-related enterprise.
They own Morgan Storage at 400 Bedford St. in the Manchester Millyard, and on Willow Street in Salem. They also own an industrial building on Frontage Road, where they operate a records storage and an RV storage facility. Morgan carved out a space of about 3,600 square feet, with room for expansion, to open Pellé (Italian for skin).
"You'd never know it was part of an industrial building," he said. "Everyone who walks in, can't get over it."
The reception area features cathedral ceilings and granite countertops, with soothing background music and an inviting decor that leads to four private treatment rooms.
The location is off the beaten path for retail, but Morgan believes that will work to his advantage, given the nature of the business. "My thinking is that people who have medical aesthetics done would prefer not to be seen walking out of a spa, having just had Botox," he said. "It's very personal, and when our clients come and go, it's very private."
Morgan said he's invested more than $350,000 to renovate the space and equip the treatment rooms, but is convinced that it will all pay off. "I love starting new businesses, and even though this is completely off the reservation for me, I'm convinced that tattoo removal is going to take off."
Revenue from tattoo removal across the country increased at an annual average rate of 20.9 percent between 2007 and 2012, to $66 million, according to data from the market research firm IBISWorld, cited in a recent Boston Globe article.
And it's not just aging boomers having second thoughts about a youthful indiscretion, although that demographic is key. Young people whose tattoos are only a few years old are having second thoughts as they experience the impact their body art has on employment opportunities.
Nearly 40 percent of people ages 18 to 29 and 32 percent of 30- to 45-year-olds have a tattoo, according to a 2010 Pew Research study. Morgan's research revealed that 25 to 30 percent of those people want those tattoos removed, "and it's only going to get higher as they get older," he said.