OGDEN -- Steven Conley isn't your everyday public servant. He's an EMT and engineer with the Ogden City Fire Department, but when he isn't driving a firetruck or operating with the hazmat crew, he's a captain running a tight ship at Deja Vu 2 Tattoo and Piercings.
Conley came into ownership of the shop, in the Newgate Mall, in February. He's one of the few body piercers in Utah certified by the Association of Professional Piercers.
"This was all unexpected," Conley said.
Although Conley said his job as a firefighter is his primary career, he's been body piercing since he was a teenager.
He got his start in Fairfield, Calif., where he went to school and got his certification, then came to Utah to work in an apprenticeship.
"At first I thought it was a fad," he said. "But it's an art. People enjoy decorating their bodies."
Conley worked at the original Deja Vu for 15 years and in that time developed several ideas on how to turn the place around.
"We really want to get away from the whole hippie, head shop thing," he said.
His goal for the past year has been to turn around the reputation of the store. He said the previous owner was about to close down the shop for good, but Conley made him an offer to buy the store, so regulars could keep coming back.
"If you could see the store a few months ago, you'd know it's completely transformed," he said.
To mark this transformation, he renamed the store Deja Vu 2.
The store now sells minimal tobacco products. Most of the store's old inventory before Conley took over is being liquidated. He still sells cigarettes to appeal to the people who come from the neighboring 'Bout Time bar, but other than that, Conley said he hates selling tobacco.
Something new he's been pushing are electronic cigarettes with the intent to get smokers to quit regular tobacco.
"I had a few friends I was able to help quit because of these," he said.
Conley said eventually he may even phase out that part of the store and strictly sell clothes and jewelry, aside from the piercing and tattooing.
Conley said the main reason he continues piercing is his huge clientele, which he said comes from not only around Utah, but from surrounding states.
"They always ask for the 'EMT piercer.' They don't trust anyone else to handle their piercings," he said.
Being an EMT and a body piercer may not be as different as one might think. Conley said he takes his knowledge of human physiology and health practices to the piercing table.
"I treat my clientele the same way I would treat a patient," he said.
Along with performing in a sterile environment for a safe and infection-free piercing, he and his other piercers are certified in CPR and blood pathogens.
"We stay ahead of the curve," he said. "I decided to stay in piercing, not for the money, but really for the customers."
Conley said he is also concerned with the lack of health and safety standards he sees in most piercing shops and people who do piercings out of their homes.
Ogden Fire Chief Mike Mathieu said that with the schedule of 10, 24-hour shifts a month, it isn't uncommon for crew members to have second jobs, even their own businesses.
It speaks to the diversity of men and women in the department, having members like Conley, who has a business that serves those who are part of an alternative lifestyle, Mathieu said.
"We're proud of any of our firefighters who are contributing members of society and run successful businesses," he said. "I encourage all of our firefighters to go out, do something else outside of the department."
Conley said he understands that, as a firefighter, he's working for the public, so his tattoos and piercings are nowhere to be seen when he's out in the field, but he has always been a supporter of those who prefer the style and freedom of adorning their body with ink and jewelry.
Conley said he won't let the idea that some people stigmatize piercings and tattoos stop him from doing what he loves, which is to serve his friends and the community -- whether it's at the scene of a fire or at his shop with someone getting their first piercing.
Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SE_Andreas.