Yard Birds Evictions Leave Centralia Tattoo Artist in Tough Spot

After the City lifts condemnation, Yard Birds owner insists that tenants must move out by December end

By Owen Sexton / [email protected]

Despite Yard Birds restoring power and the City of Chehalis revoking its condemnation of the building Dec. 6, the eviction notifications posted to business owners remain in force.

According to Yard Birds coowner Darris McDaniel, tenants have until December 31 to vacate the premises.

As for the future of Yard Birds itself and rumors of a possible sale, McDaniel told The Chronicle that they were just that — rumors.

“I have nothing else to say because nothing’s concrete,” McDaniel said.

Michael Cristina, the owner of Skindoodle Tattoo and one of the tenants being removed, was a person The Chronicle met in November. Cristina moved to Centralia 1989. In 1994, she opened Skindoodle on Tower Avenue. It remained open until 2012, when Cristina left tattooing for a new career.

“I was in the drug culture for a while and it got to the point where I wanted to get rid of that in my life. I closed my shop and put it in storage. This was the moment when I decided to change my life. I was never in any trouble with the law but I was just wanting to change my life,” Cristina said.

He got a job as a counselor at a rehab for drug and alcohol addicts. He met Lisa Hirtzel, his girlfriend, during that time. They still live together in Onalaska. Then, in 2021, Cristina decided to reopen his studio with Hirtzel’s help.

In the original Tower Avenue location, he reopened Skindoodle. Cristina was initially given a year-long lease in that location. However, the lease was cancelled early due to the purchase of the building.

Cirstina said the original owner of the Tower Avenue location explained to him the possibility of a sale and said he could’ve stayed to the end of his lease, but then the new buyer would have backed out as they wanted the building empty to get a tax break for 2021.

Cristina was purchased by the new owner for the remainder of the lease. He used that money to open Yard Birds Studios in January 2022. He paid three months rent ahead.

“That was the only place we could find that we could afford. We spent almost $5,000 more to set up a hair salon there. It was an old salon and we had to redo things from bottom to top but it was a nice looking little shop we had in there,” Cristina said.

Cristina had Skindoodle up and running at Yard Birds by March. However, on August 29, the power went out at the building. Cristina was then locked out of his studio.

“That’s where we’re at. I’m at a loss, I don’t know how we’re going to recover from this. I just don’t see it happening,” Cristina said.

It wasn’t until the beginning of December when power was restored that Yard Birds was opened up to its tenants and Cristina was allowed access to his equipment and studio again.

He explained that, aside from the moving costs and deposits he had also taken out credit cards in order to pay for licensing fees so he could tattoo again.

Now that Cristina hasn’t been able to tattoo anyone since August, he’s facing a financial crisis.

“We’ve been waiting for two and a half months to find out what they’re (Yard Birds) going to do, and nobody has communicated,” Hirtzel said.

Yard Birds was Cristina’s only choice for a place to live at the start of the year. Now that rent prices have risen even more, Cristina cannot afford to pack his studio up and move it to storage. He said that he struggles with his low back, age 56.

“I took out early retirement to help him with the tattoo shop and get surgery done, so we’re living on $825 a month,” Hirtzel said.

Some shop owners have moved out of Yard Birds but Cristina doesn’t currently have storage for her equipment in Skindoodle.

“I spoke to Darris (McDaniel)just now and he told me I have until the end of December to get my belongings out of the building. I said I would, but I don’t have a place for it. I also asked him that if I didn’t get it out would I be losing it? He said, ‘I’m not saying that,’ and continued to tell me the building is going to be locked at the end of December,” Cristina said in a Dec. 8 email.

Cristina created a GoFundMe.com crowdfunding page because of all these factors. He said he doesn’t like asking for help but feels he has no other options right now.

“I thought that I was gonna be good as long as I could hold a steady line (of work). I’m 56 years old. I actually feel like I have another 25 years of tattooing in me yet,” Cristina said.

Cristina’s first goal with the GoFundMe campaign is to pay for storage for his tattooing equipment and then hopefully get enough money to afford being able to reopen his studio for a third time in the past two years.

To donate to Cristina’s cause, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/sos-skindoodle-tattoo-centralia-wa.

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