GARY │ Three years after Gary tattoo icon Roy Boy Cooper died, Roy Boy’s, his shop at 3844 Broadway, is back open and being run by his son, 18-year-old Cody Cooper.
Roy Boy’s celebrated its grand reopening Saturday and welcomed many family members, friends, co-workers and customers of Roy Boy, who some say was as big — if not bigger — than Michael Jackson in Gary.
They are quite the shoes to fill for someone at an age when most are years away from a career, let alone owning a business.
“I’m really proud of him,” Cody’s mother, Debra Cooper, said. Debra, who owns Roy Boy’s II Still Crazy in Lake Station, said it was her late husband’s dream to have Cody take over the business.
She said Cody was 13 or 14 years old when Roy began to teach him the craft.
“Roy knew he was dying and wanted Cody to be a good artist,” she said. “Roy wanted him to have this. He’s got both of our talents. He’s going to be fantastic.”
Chicagoans Tim Svetly and his wife, Lisa Tavonatti, were at the shop shooting video and taking photos because they are working on a book about Debra and Roy called “Tattoos, Tigers, and Turmoil.”
“I was on the street filming and a lady said she was glad they’re re-opening because Roy was such a great guy to the community,” Svetly said. “I think it’s going to be interesting. Look how hot tattooing is. Twenty years ago you had to search out a magazine. Now you turn on MTV and there’s four tattoo shows.”
John “Repo” Higgins, a longtime friend of the family, said what he remembers most about the shop is the excitement of people who came there.
“We fought a long time for him to get it,” Higgins said of Cody.
Cody has several artists assisting him at Roy Boy’s including “Monster Joe” Radek, who worked with his father on and off for 15 years.
Cody has many childhood memories of his father’s business.
“I fell in love with it,” he said.
As an owner, he concedes there are challenges.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s different. You have to pay bills. I’ve never done that before.”
Roy Boy’s was renowned for its tigers until they were removed shortly before Roy’s death.
Cody said they hope to have some new ones around in about a year.