Jan. 10, 2006 12:00

Greensboro's top ten tattoo shops

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Little John's Tattoo

807 S. Aycock St.; 336.275.7161; littlejohnstattoo.com

The most democratic way to do this survey would have been to get 10 tattoos — one from each shop. But since the higher-ups wouldn't spring for my total body transformation, I did the best I could with a couple of short interviews. The first was with Little John, the Grand Puba of the Greensboro ink scene, who opened the first tattoo shop within the city limits many years ago. Now his empire spans three shops, with the flagship institution near UNCG at Aycock and Lee. This largest Gate City tattoo establishment not only boasts 10 artists and four body piercers, but they also have a wide apparel selection for those in search of edgy fashions.

Carolina Tattoo Company

1029 W. Lee St.; 336.271.2030

This shop, Little John's original space, has floated to three different Lee Street storefronts since 1993. Right now, their staff consists of two artists, one apprentice and two body piercers – all of them women. The owner insists on random drug tests to keep this shop clean and sober. In addition, they are gay-friendly, according to one customer who was waiting for her friends so they could ink each other's names into their bodies.

Kingpin Studio

836 W. Lee St.; 336.272.2725; earthsedgetattoo.com

This sleepy storefront, which is a couple of blocks down Lee from Carolina Tattoo Company, looks at first glance like an art gallery. Like the other shops, they do both custom and flash (you know, the butterflies and Asian characters adorning shop walls). A quick glance through their portfolios reveals some pretty intricate work, including one Sanskrit tiger back piece that is hard to describe but blew me away.

Organized Confusion

929 S. Chapman St.; 336.389.1881

Only one piercer and one artist work out of this shop. Lee Swain, a 12-year veteran of the ink trade, comes highly recommended from other shops on this list. During my visit, owner and piercer Kevin Halterman impressed me with the advice he dispensed to a group of young girls in the market for some work. He recommended they shop around, not for a low price, but for an artist they liked with a good portfolio. This is a major purchase, after all, and not something to be stingy with.

Tattoo City of High Point

1907 N. Main St., High Point; 336.887.3632

The owner of this joint, Dallas Morris, has a substantial gray beard that gives him a sage-like aura, even with the clanging jewelry and full-sleeve tattoos. Morris and his staff do the gamut: custom, flash, cosmetic, repair work and cover-ups (name tattoos are a really bad idea). He said several artists moved to High Point when the Greensboro tattoo scene started filling up. Now, about half a dozen shops call this town home.

Inflictions Tattoos

1225 N. Main St., High Point; 336.886.3381

Until recently, this shop was called Skin Design Tattoos, and the body modification scene is one filled with such turnovers and shop closings. Now it is done up in red and black with sleek modular furniture. Like most shops, flash ranging from traditional to tribal options hangs on the walls. Unlike other places, they proudly boast a niche in fine line work, especially portraiture. Their lead artist, Terry Stephens, won best black-and-gray at September's tattoo convention.

Planet Hardware

788 N. Main St., High Point; 336.887.5283

“Live It, Wear It, Board It” is the slogan adorning the sign of this eclectic shop specializing in snow and skateboards as well as tattoos. They close a little early for what is generally late-night commerce, so by 6 p.m. on a Thursday the doors were locked. I didn't get a chance to check out their work, but I'm sure it falls in the same thematic vein as skate designs. In other words, if what you want is extreme, this might be the place for you.

New Hope Tattoo

3526 Spring Garden St.; 336.292.2299

Between the name, the sun-emblazoned sign and the cute country-looking house, this one would appear on the surface to be the least threatening of all shops for someone looking to dabble in tattoo. Unfortunately, they are not quite welcoming enough to be open in the evenings during the winter. Your best bet to check out this shop would be to call for an appointment or return in the summer.

Little John's Tattoo

2910 Battleground Ave.; 336.540.9840

My boo, who has a large piece on his upper arm and another smaller tattoo on his leg, has long lamented the closing of Devoted Tattoo Gallery, which used to sit right next to College Hill. Well, the artists for the most part have stayed in town but moved across to this Little John's outpost. It is a very nice shop with friendly staff especially keen on custom work. In addition to high caliber work with vivid colors, the entire studio is spotless.

Fat Buddha's Tattoos

8218 US Hwy 158, Stokesdale; 336.643.4059

I'll be honest, I didn't really check this one out because Stokesdale is a bit of a haul from the YES! Weekly offices. All the same, I wanted an offering for our rural readers and I like the name. If you are interested in this shop, go in and talk to some of the artists. Any tattoo artist worth their salt will impose stringent limitations on age, inebriation and equipment sterilization. Remember that this is a lifelong decision, so don't do it cheap or impulsively.

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