Why this business?
Zahna and Harley Smith opened Wandering Gypsy Artistry art gallery on May 1, 2018, shortly after moving to Isleton, and they added the tattoo studio a year later. They showcase their paintings, handmade jewelry and other artwork, along with other artists and makers. “In the beginning, we sold our own artworks, artistic furniture pieces, custom flasks, tapestries, jewelry and some retail items,” Zahna says. “After the tattoo studio opened, we phased out some of the retail items to focus more on locally made art and artisan craft projects.” Harley has 20 years of experience in the tattoo industry, having started his apprenticeship when he was only 14, and the studio is the first state-certified shop in Isleton. Harley said the process required new nonporous floors, new paint and the installation of a sink in the procedure area, among other things, and he needed a bloodborne pathogen certification too. “Tattooing is a dream job,” he says. “It is a lot of fun getting to meet new people with cool ideas and then to help them bring those ideas to life.”
Zahna, 38, and Harley, 34, moved from Colorado to California in February 2018 because they wanted to be closer to family and friends affected by the Tubbs Fire the previous year, then the most destructive wildfire in California history. “We decided Sacramento County was our best bet, after seeing the cost of living had increased so dramatically in Sonoma County,” Zahna says. They saw an advertisement for an apartment in Isleton and decided to take a look. “From the first time I saw the Sacramento River as we crossed the Rio Vista Bridge, I was taken aback by the beauty of the Delta. I felt an instant connection, and I think Harley did too.” They rented the apartment and later decided to rent the vacant space in front of the apartment to house their studio.
What’s it like on Main Street?
Zahna says the most important thing for her business and others in Isleton is to promote the Delta and convince more people to visit Isleton’s Main Street, which has been struggling in recent years and has several vacant stores. “We revitalize the economy here, not just one business, so everyone wins,” says Zahna, who works with the Isleton Chamber of Commerce, where Harley serves on the volunteer board of directors. “We do that by changing people’s perspective of Isleton. A facelift is coming, with new signage, walking tours and lots of little plans to encourage growth and community pride.” Harley agrees Isleton has been a good choice for their family, including daughter Lilla, 4. “I love the small-town mindset with the big-town accessibility,” says Harley, who also cooks at a restaurant in Stockton four or five days a week. “It is a safe and healthy environment for our daughter. I love knowing my clientele on a first-name basis and seeing them around town.”
What about that name?
Zahna and Harley say they first registered Wandering Gypsy Artistry when they lived in Colorado, and they brought the name with them to Isleton. “The gypsy theme has been around since the beginning of our relationship,” Zahna says. “When Harley moved up to Sonoma to be with me, he came by train with one bag and no real belongings other than his tattoo equipment.” Zahna says the name comes from their love of travel, beautiful landscapes and “our bohemian lifestyle that influences our creative aspirations.” The term gypsy is considered derogatory, and Zahna says, “Every now and then I get someone who takes a jab at our name, but it doesn’t bother me. I have always loved the culture of gypsies around the world.”
How did you meet?
Before meeting Harley, Zahna had a son, Patrick (now 19 and a recent Marines boot camp graduate), and her partner at the time, Derek Revette, died in 2012. She says she became withdrawn and didn’t give Patrick the attention he needed, especially since Revette was his first role model, so Patrick moved to San Diego to live with his father. Later that year, she met Harley when she was in San Diego. “Meeting Harley was not expected,” Zahna says. “I was still pretty conflicted with grief. We met at an old dive bar. … It was closing time when we started talking. I gave him my number, not thinking anything would come of (it) because I was on vacation.” After frequent phone calls and visits in San Diego and Sonoma, Harley moved in with Zahna in Sonoma. “We could not ignore … the shared passion for art, food and travel. … Meeting Harley was a turning point, an exciting new chapter of adventure and creative pursuit.”
Main Street profiles businesses in our 10-county Capital Region. If you know of an interesting one, please email email@example.com.
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