He was married to his college pal, Jenny, and they were expecting their fourth baby when Joe started to consider going back to tattooing full time. This freaked Jenny out a little, as she really enjoyed the steady paycheck and benefits that his current job provided, but she decided she wanted a happy husband and vowed to support him in his pursuit. They considered their options and waited until after this fourth child was born before making any changes.
Joe had a friend in Minnesota (his native homeland) who owned a tattoo shop and had wanted Joe to go and work for him for years. There was talk of this friend retiring soon and wanting Joe to take over the shop. It was an established shop in a college town, a promising opportunity. Joe and Jenny considered this option with much prayer and decided to go for it. They uprooted their family and moved 1,927 miles away, from their home in the San Francisco Bay Area to a tiny little town near St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Not long after being in there, Joe realized that things were not going to work out as they'd hoped. The owner of the shop obviously had no intentions of letting the reigns loose anytime soon, and had very different opinions on the best way to market oneself and the shop in the business. With the struggling economy, getting a new tattoo was not at the top of many people's financial priority list. Joe found it necessary to find other ways to make money in the tattoo industry, with his art and in teaching seminars, both at conventions and on recorded dvds. The owner of the shop did not approve of this activity (he seemed to feel threatened and worried that Joe would try to take away business and start his own shop in the area). He gave Joe the ultimatum to either stop doing these things or stop working there. Since just working there, sitting around waiting for people to walk through the door, was not putting food on the table, it was decided that Joe would no longer work there.
This was two weeks before Christmas. In Minnesota. (30 degrees below zero!)
Early on, to reassure his boss of his loyalty, Joe had given his word that he would not work at another shop in the area. He made it clear that his intentions were to be in that shop only, and that any marketing he did would benefit the shop as much as himself. After being fired, he felt strongly that the right thing to do was to honor that commitment. Many people disagreed and thought it would be justifiable to work somewhere else, but Joe was committed to keeping his word. If you know Minnesota at all, you know that there are a few big cities with lots of small towns in between. This meant that Joe would need to travel over an hour to work at another shop or else move the family again. Moving back to the SF Bay Area seemed the best option, since he already had a lot of contacts and clientele there, plus family and friends.
So, just six months after moving to this new area, Joe and Jenny packed up the family to go back to California. It was strangely hard to move again. Not just because packing is such a pain, but because they had made some really good new friends, enjoyed being near extended family, and actually liked living there.
If you've ever moved, you know that it is quite expensive to do so, especially at such a distance. They had spent everything they had to get to Minnesota and only had enough left to get the family back to CA with just what clothing and few kid items that could fit in the two cars they drove. The household items and most personal belongings were put into a storage unit for pick up at a later time.
It has now been almost six months since the family has been back in the Bay Area. Joe has been working at a shop in San Francisco, but times are still tough, and they're still catching up financially. Jenny just took on a job at Starbucks, her first time working outside the home since before they had kids. They're working hard to make ends meet, but are struggling to set aside any extra to go back to get their stuff out of storage.
The Retrieval Project is an effort to raise money to make the trip back to Minnesota to get their furniture, toys, clothes and other household items. Most likely Jenny and two of the kids will be going. The estimated cost of the trip is about $4,000.
More details of the project in another post.