The list of local tattoo artists experienced some growth while Northwest students were away for break.
There’s a new kid on the block, with Inque Jester Tattoo and Westside Tattoo sitting nearly catty corner from one another along Main Street.
Westside Tattoo sits on the west side of the street and has been a part of the Maryville community for 18 years. Inque Jester Tattoo moved into its location on the east side of the street, sharing a building with The Salon Advantage, just about four weeks ago.
Rich Chance, Inque Jester Tattoo owner, has been a tattoo artist for 24 years and has worked in many places across the country, including Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. He was most recently located in Barnard, Missouri, but decided to make the leap into town.
“Moving it into town was going to make it a much better of a shop,” Chance said. “We kind of just had to jump and just do it. With the college and not a really well-established, I’m going to say, tattoo shop here already, figured it’d probably be the best place to put it.”
Greg Brumley, Westside Tattoo owner, is not concerned about the new competition.
“I’m not worried about him. I’ve taken out ... other shops,” Brumley said. “I’ve been here way too long.”
Brumley said his unbeatable prices and the loyalty he’s established with his customers, especially college students, will continue to maintain his success.
Chance, however, prides himself on not being “the same kind of tattoo guy” as most.
“I’m trying to change things by being not so same as other shops,” Chance said. “A lot of people associate tattoo artists with bad people, and that’s what I want to try to get out of, especially in a small town like this.”
Before discovering his current location, Chance called multiple places in town to see if he could rent a space, but many did not want a tattoo shop in their building. Brumley has faced similar issues throughout his time in town, having moved twice over the years as a result of negative responses in previous locations.
With a necklace of silver skulls dangling around Chance’s neck, a stud piercing through his cheek and tattoos lining nearly every inch of his arms, legs, and even one poking out below his black hat, Chance acknowledged, “I’m fully tattooed; some people say I look like a scary guy,” but he said does all he can to ensure people’s experiences with him, and in his shop, are not scary ones.
He doesn’t play music that is too “hard” or too loud, he tries to “be cool with everybody,” he keeps his space clean and is an advocate for shop inspections being more frequent and more thorough throughout the state, but most importantly, he establishes personal connections with his customers.
Emily Weed, a Maryville resident who received a tattoo from Chance during his time working in Barnard after a friend recommended him, said Chance made her feel like he really cared. She had previously had a negative experience when getting her first tattoo done out of state.
“I thought the tattoo artists were very cold and didn’t really care about their customers,” Weed said, “When I went with my friend ... to her tattoo appointment with him (Chance), I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really, really nice and down to earth.’ And he makes you comfortable; he’s not like some weird guy in a tattoo parlor. He’s professional, but he then he also makes it personal.”
Chance said he patiently sits down with customers to discuss what they want.
“I’ll sit with you; I’ll work with you through whatever, however you want it,” Chance said. “I’m going to ask your advice and get you what you want, not what I think you should get. I give you suggestions, but I’m not going to pick it for you.”
Every tattoo Chance does it custom, and Weed was impressed by his dedication to personalization but also his ability to make strong, creative suggestions.
“He’ll talk to you and explain things to you, and he’s really open to what you want to do. If you want your tattoo a specific way, he’s going to help you get it exactly how you want it,” Weed said. “He talked to me about it, and he kind of got a feel for my personality and then did all this, which is pretty awesome.”
The system for designing a tattoo varies greatly by artist. Brumley’s planning with customers primarily happens before they enter the shop.
“We do a lot of texting here ... I hardly ever talk, talk to somebody. I like it that way because I’m able to get their patterns before they get here. Get their ideas and get something drawn up before they get here,” Bumley said. “I like it that way. ... If you put me in a hurry, you’re not going to get my best. ... That’s not the type of artist I am. I like to think about them, to get the best quality out of that work.”
Brumley’s specialization is a very traditional, “old-school” style of tattoo, like roses and skulls. Chance’s forte is abstract art and watercolors.
Both artists got their start drawing, starting at a young age. Both also did their first tattoo between 11 and 13 years old, experimenting with their friends.
Chance explained it takes a lot of time to become a great tattoo artist and to hone your skills, and one continues to get better with more experience.
“Every day, you still learn in this business. 24 years doing it, and I still learn,” Chance said.
Word of mouth is the most valuable tool in establishing a good reputation, which is how both locations have garnered most of their clientele.
Appointments at Westside Tattoo and Inque Jester Tattoo can be made through their respective Facebook pages, and walk-ins are always welcome.