What was a chocolate shop last month in Ashland will become a tattoo parlor next month.

What was a chocolate shop last month in Ashland will become a tattoo parlor next month.

Silly Rabbit Chocolate Co. closed Dec. 31 and Southside Tattoo immediately took over the 762 Ashland St. building, renovating it and painting the blue walls red.

In what may seem like an odd series of events, the owner of the chocolate store, B. Sterling, was having the now-owners of the tattoo parlor tattoo his entire body, he said. When the tattoo artists found out that Sterling wanted to move to Portland, they asked him to negotiate a deal with the landlord so they could take over the space.

"I was like, 'I want that space,'" said Chops, a co-owner of Southside Tattoo who prefers to be known by his one-name moniker. "We're trying to create some vibes on the south side of Ashland — we're trying to create some energy here."

Chops and his business partner, Steve Fuller, who owns Triple Six Tattoo in the plaza, plan to open their new shop Sunday.

Fuller plans to close Triple Six, where he and Chops work now, this weekend.

Chocolate shop closure

Sterling plans to open a chocolate shop and bakery in Portland as soon as he can find a suitable space, he said.

He said he felt forced to leave Ashland because he wasn't turning a profit here.

"We tried for a good year and a half and we just weren't making any money," Sterling said. "It didn't make any sense from a business point of view to stay here. I'm completely heartbroken though because I love Ashland."

The location and layout of the Ashland business — which didn't have space for customers to sit down and eat — and the economic downturn contributed to the closure, he said. Sterling plans to change his business model and serve more sandwiches and lunch fare when he opens his new restaurant in Portland, he said.

About six locals lost their jobs when Silly Rabbit Chocolate Co. closed, but they have been invited to work for Sterling in Portland when he opens his new store, he said.

Tattoo parlor plans

Meanwhile, the owners of Southside Tattoo plan to divide the two-room building into a tattoo studio and piercing station, Chops said.

Previously Chops owned two popular tattoo parlors in New York City, he said. Before owning Triple Six Tattoo, Fuller worked at Fat Cat Tattoo in Medford.

Both of the tattoo artists grew up in Ashland and were childhood buddies.

"We'd been talking about doing it for a number of years," Chops said.

The name of the tattoo parlor comes from the Southside Market, which used to be nearby on Ashland Street, Fuller said.

"It's where me and my grandpa used to get a soda pop on our way to go fishing when I was growing up," he said.

Chops and Fuller have spent the last few weeks readying the tattoo parlor and "making it cozy" for opening day, Chops said.

The owners hope that despite the recession, people will still want to spend money on tattoos.

"It is a luxury, although the way that the mainstream has accepted tattoos has definitely helped demystify it and really allowed people to see the possibilities available in it," Chops said.

To contact the Silly Rabbit Chocolate Co., log on to www.sillyrabbitchocolates.com or e-mail ARCAshland@aol.com.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.