Knowing that tattooing is one of the ultimate forms of self-expression, Firehouse Tattoos' artists understand the importance of each line and every dot of pigment they leave on client skin. They meticulously put those lines and pigments together to craft realistic portraits, as well as flights of fancy such as cartoons and mythical creatures. Besides tattoo services, they also execute professional piercings of everything from bellybuttons to cheeks.
In Focus: China Doll Tattoo & Piercing
What they do: a wide variety of tattoos and creative piercing
Tattoo styles: classic, photorealistic, biomechanical, watercolor, and others
Star studded: the shop specializes in creative body piercing, including rings along the back that can be laced with ribbon
The whole nine yards: if you really want to go for gusto, the shop will incorporate diamond stud body piercings into their tattoo designs
Best day to walk in without an appointment: Wednesdays, when the Walk-In Wednesday Special gets you one of three tattoo sizes for a flat rate
Most popular offering: Alley logo T-shirts and piercing jewelry
Walk-ins Welcome: Yes
Good for Kids: Yes
Staff Size: 11–25 people
Parking: Metered street parking
Handicap Accessible: No
Pro Tip: Stop in the area to have a great beer and loosen up. This is like visiting the circus—smile and enjoy.
Q&A with Mark Thomas, Owner
What sets your business apart from your competition?
The combination of our four stores under one roof. We carry many one-of-a-kind items.
What was the inspiration for starting this business?
I was 17 and struggling with school when I fell into the opportunity to buy a business. I grabbed the savings bonds bought for me at birth, bought the business, and never looked back
What is the best reaction you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
We have been here for 40-plus years. People come in all the time and, in this time of many stores closing, they say, " We are so glad you are still here."
What’s your favorite part about your job?
I love to go out and source one-of-a-kind items.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
Go read my bio on the site. It is fun and gritty and the story of great success for small business in America.
In 1980, tattoos were still the sole province of the slightly edgy, and standards for tattoo parlors varied widely. Even so, when "Fat Joe" Scapini opened Jade Dragon Tattoo, he sought to set a new benchmark for cleanliness as well as quality, inventing a "toss-a-tube" system that begins each tattoo with fresh ink and a brand-new barrel and tube. Though Joe passed away in 2007, his wife and children continue to work with the shop's 12 artists and six body piercers to maintain the high standard of sterility, still using the same system the founder invented. Tattoo seekers work with the artists to develop custom designs, or they can choose to reference one of more than one million pieces of flash, or premade designs. The shop also performs traditional and dermal piercings on ears, noses, lips, or other creative places, such as the ear but a little off-center. While their bodies are being turned into works of art, clients can gaze at the riot of designs and other artifacts—animal masks, neon signs, golden dragons, and a jackalope among them—that cover the shop's electric-blue walls.
In Focus: Chicago Ink Tattoo and Body Piercing
What they do: exactly what the name says—tattoos and body piercings
Their tattoo styles: black-on-gray portraits, lettering, Japanese designs, tribal designs, and pretty much any other art that can be created by putting ink to skin
What the shop looks like: an art studio or cafe more than a tattoo parlor; paintings and sketches line the walls, and leather couches surround a chessboard in the waiting room
Where you can see their work: online galleries for tattoo artists including Omar and body piercing artists including Rossmery
What’s in their glass display cases: all manner of jewelry to complement body piercings
Other things to know: don’t get too much sun while your tattoo heals, and yes, it’s common to tip tattoo artists (though not required)
At Twisted Tattoo & Body Piercing, no two tattoos are the same. The vibrant artwork on the waiting-room walls doesn't just give visitors a glimpse at the owners' aesthetic preferences: it also showcases the studio's identity as a fully custom shop. All of the staff artists and piercing technicians deftly handle custom work ranging from tattoo body art to piercings and other modifications, such as permanent cosmetics.
The artists work with their clients' existing ideas and help flesh out unfinished ones to create full-color tattoos of pop-culture icons, intimate quotations, and old-fashioned stylistic imagery. Their detail-oriented style allows them to perform cover-up services, masking unwanted tattoos or erasing old lines so customers can play connect-the-freckles all over again.