Get Thee To the Mall

IAM: cocky_bob (who has nothing to do with this post).

Everybody knows that the only reason to go to the mall is to pick up underage girls, or to enjoy the sweet relief of air conditioning on a ball-droppingly humid summer day, or maybe to hand out extremist political pamphlets to impressionable young children. So who in the world would go to the mall to get tattooed? The answer: People! The Wall Street Journal chimes in today with a story profiling Mario Barth and the folks behind Tattoo Nation, both of whom are looking to turn their tattoo shops into nationwide franchises. That, of course, is not a particularly new idea, but the idea seems to center on attracting people who may not normally venture into your average iniquitous den of tattooery, where things are usually on fire and the artists are snorting weed and sacrificing animals and such:

Tattoo Nation LLC had to tackle such issues when it set out several years ago to be the first mall-based tattoo-parlor chain in the country. It opened its first location in 2006 in the Woodbridge Center Mall in Woodbridge, N.J., 200 feet from Bloomingdale’s.

Early next year, it will open two stores in New York — in the Staten Island Mall and the Queens Center mall — and it is in lease negotiations at more than a dozen other malls around the U.S.

[…] So far, some traditional mall customers have responded well to the tattoo parlors. Geralyn Stanley, a 32-year-old high-school art teacher and mother of two young girls, wanted a tattoo but was leery of patronizing traditional parlors. When she came across the white-tiled, rock-music-playing Tattoo Nation in the Woodbridge Center Mall, she felt more at ease — so much so that she has gotten three tattoos in the past year. On one visit, she brought along her mother, a 52-year-old librarian, who got her first tattoo.

In all fairness though, while the negative characterization of tattoo shops is mostly silly, it’s probably a testament to the art form that even people who have no interest in — and, indeed, feel completely apart from — “traditional” tattoo culture are still hot to get tattooed, albeit in a setting that feels more appropriate for their personalities and experiences. So … probably a good business move.

There is a slight error, though, where the WSJ reporter mentions that, in addition to Tattoo Nation rebranding its shops as Inked shops, that the company has purchased Inked magazine as well. Apparently not. Inked‘s Jason Buhrmester wrote in to Gawker to correct the mistake:

“We are actually published by Don Hellinger, the owner of Nylon and Nylon Guys. We want nothing to do with Tattoo Nation and begrudge it for wasting valuable space that could be filled with a tasty Orange Julius.”

Me-OW! Tat-fight!

Tattoo Parlors Start Hitting Mall [Wall Street Journal Online]

Inked Is Not A Mall Rat [Gawker]

38 thoughts on “Get Thee To the Mall

  1. Sigh, when will commercialization end. Who wants modification to be worldwide accepted and everyone having tattoos and parents bringing their kids in to be peirced ‘because his friends have it’? It’s all fast becoming a trend l(same as flower power clothes and Nu Metal) that will soon become happy happy and acceptable enough thatnone of the true mods will want it anymore.
    Half the fun of Mods (in my opinion) is knowing you’re different and having half the world hating you for it….hell yeh!
    we’ll soon have to find something else once we’re all blended into normal society.

  2. I agree to some extent. Everyone deserves to have access to exposure to modification, but most people will not get modified past a certain extent regardless of the commercialization it achieves, due to social parameters and the like. You won’t see tween girls running around with transdermals for example. Case in point, suspension is pretty widely recognized and publicized at this point, but not every skater boy and his friends go to get suspended. I think that one downside that this could cause would be maybe getting too much of a “chain-store” aesthetic would be a drop in quality and personable employees (ie: WalMart), and those things are crucial to a place of modification.

  3. Uh, maybe the chain is real, but that first location in Woodbridge at least is fake. I live(d) in Woodbridge (I just recently moved to Pittsburgh for college) and my house was literally a five minute walk from the mall. I actually worked in one of the two GameStops there for almost a year.

    Not only is there no Tattoo Nation in Woodbridge Center, there’s not even a Bloomingdale’s in that mall. If you don’t believe me, you can check for yourself:

    This is DEFINITELY something I would have heard of, if not personally seen…

  4. Wow! I’m no expert, but it looks like an artist is doing hand poked white ink in the video.

    Is that typical? I mean, it makes sense considering the issue w/ a lot of people going to hard when doing white ink w/ guns and making excessive scare tissue (and yeah, I know all tattoos are scars – but you know what i mean). Either way I definitely respect that artist for using modern techniques or branching out and trying something atypical(if that’s the case) when he is in a setting that he could easily just coast through doing typical tattoo work considering the clientele.

    props…I’m pleasantly surprised…

  5. Its a shame to see douche bag rockstar tattoo artists continuing to achieve selling out their own industry.

    Its as bad as good body jewelry companies selling their jewelry to online stores.

    people are so f*cking selfish they would sell out their own job to make a few extra bucks in the short run.

    Meanwhile they obsolesce themselves before their carrier is over.

    Too bad they cant find a way to “cash in” with ruining it for everybody else.

  6. …seriously?? People are SCARED of tattoo shops? All the tattoo places I can think of here in Atlanta are in well-lit spots in or near decent neighborhoods with lots of foot traffic. What is so scary?

    I guess this is to be expected… people think Claires is an okay place to pierce ears, and it’s in a mall…

  7. I have those boots….
    I just wanted to share that =P I only got them a couple weeks ago.

  8. Devil’s advocate counterpoint: All else being equal, Mario Barth claims to offer his artists health insurance, retirement plans, etc. I don’t know if this is true across the board or what the working conditions are like at his shops, but piercers/tattooists/etc. being able to enjoy the same employment benefits as people who work “regular” jobs is a very important development, even if that means employing a more traditional business model in some respects.

  9. Seca-

    I to hate successful people….with a fire passion that comes from deep within.
    And I really hate finding good jewelry on

    Fuck people who create a new niche in the tattoo market and bring (quite possibly) higher quality tattooing to the mainstream by breaking a tattoo shop stereotype.

    Lesson: You can’t make the people on the fringe of tattoo culture have better taste in the images they choose to put on their bodies but you can at least do it with quality work (you all clearly have yet to look at the work coming from these shops)

    p.s. Mario Barth is pretty fucking good…that mixed with the fact that this business venture is apparently successful pretty much ensures that he will by no means become obsolete before his career is over…

  10. Users of this website complaining about tattoos getting more popular are like environmentalists complaining about Wal-Mart and other mainstream groceries selling organic produce.

    The channels through which those respective products/services are being provided to the consumer public at large may not be ideal but they’re a sign that they’re becoming more acceptable among “ordinary” people. Also, with regard to the quality issues, a rising tide lifts all boats eventually.

    The world is changing, isn’t that what you wanted?

  11. not everyone is looking for hardcore tattooed to the edge aesthetics, why can’t people here accept that? not everyone has to suspend and not everyone needs a meatotomy to live

  12. There are about 4 tattoo shops in the “Dizengoff Center” mall in Tel-Aviv, and great quality shops, too, that have even been here on Modblog… what’s the big news? And to the other comments, don’t think that just because a shop is in the mall it means they suck…
    Peace y’all

  13. p.s. Is this normal rock star behavior?

    “BARTH CURRENTLY acts as consultant and practitioner for Hackensack Cosmetic Surgeons for reconstructive micro pigmentation on cancer patients. He created a series of special inks for use in reconstructive surgery to help patients adjust with a more natural dermal appearance after major operations.”

  14. i’m a bit disappointed out that nobody so far has pointed out how hot the accompanying photo is. Maybe it’s just his facial expression, but damn….

  15. I personally want to see more of the person wearing the boots! I am intrigued!

    PS I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “mall tattoo shops” if they do the right thing!

  16. Hahaha, “I’m pretty scared of tattoo shops and what they might contain, but since it’s packaged in my friendly brainless neighborhood mall, I had enough courage to risk it!”
    I’m not going to begrudge them making money or being successful. Good for them, lots of luck.

  17. I live in South Africa, where the mod community is very healthy and alive, and we have quite alot of tattoo shops in our malls, and people love it!! I had some of my piercings done in a shop in a mall, and I have nothing bad to say about the experience… (My tattoos were done in my local user-friendly parlour, though..)
    Why does it sound that most want to keep body modification to themselves like some secret that is best kept hidden?? Body modification will never be commercialized, it is too daring and just too beautiful..

  18. i am going to open a suspension booth at teh mall and then put it in a mcdonalds commercial nothing wrong with that folks

  19. 1: Tattoos are already accepted. That’s why there are mall shops in the first place. You don’t break barriers by making a mall shop if everyone thinks you’re scum. The mall probably won’t even give you the spot. And you’re playing by the rules just as much if you’re knowingly trying to unfit the norms as you would if you’re doing the fashionable thing. It might make a you a scary black sheep but you’re still a sheep. Lol sheep never heard that one before.

    I can’t understand people who cry how they want to be different when everyone has tattoos and even if you get a full body suit and tattoo your face with dicks everyone will link you to some wino bum social group and no one, except maybe in this little community of friends, thinks you’re brave and special. Tattoos and body modifications are just pictures and pieces of metal, cuts and bumps. They won’t make you any different. Maybe get you a little high for a while and when it wears of you gotta get more and more until you understand the difference between different and “whoo 2 inch ears in a month epic win, maybe ill get into modblog now”-different.

  20. What 12 said. An acquaintance just got a placement as an apprentice in a tattoo parlour in a mall type establishment (top of Selfridges in Manchester, England, on the off chance anyone knows it), because it’s what he wants to be doing. Sure, the clientele will be different than that of the grubby-looking yet really popular Rambo’s, the only other large tattoo parlour in the centre, the one that’s in the middle of the sex shops, but the clientele is different for most products. What’s the problem?

    Unlike people who get their ears pierced at Claire’s, who wouldn’t know what’s wrong to complain about using a gun, if somebody has a bad experience getting a tattoo it would be far easier to complain to the mall than to the person who did your tattoo in another parlour if you felt intimidated; I think this could even help regulation.

  21. I have not problems with the notion of success, I have no problems with growing out of the underground either (this industry has been out for some time now).

    I remember when hardware stores were independently owned. I remember when the money they generated went back to the local economy. I remember when customer service was high and so was product quality.

    Now that larger corporate interests are involved those profits do not remain in local community. Because of multiple corporations are competing for the same market product quality is slipping in the name of competitive prices. customer service blows too.

    Same can be said for Walmart and the impact it has had on local markets and the independent stores they compete with.

    Sure it is not all evil, Walmart will bring jobs – at the expense of independent business.

    Home depot will have it in stock – Jim’s hard ware might have to order it.

    These short term benefits are failing us in other markets and when the corpatization of body modification is complete they will fail there too.

    Television shows and Wall Street are not going to make things better for the industry in the long run. Although I will not doubt that it will benefit the people bring this about. It will benefit the people with “fake studios” too shoot unrealistic television shows too.

    There is nothing to prevent independently owned operations to set up insurance for employees or contractors. There is nothing stopping tattoo artists to be smarter with the money.

    There is a saturation point for this industry. Many markets have seen it with independant shops already. Next the “Chain shops” move in to this “new” market. Then most of the independant shops will die out for varios reasons. Then the hydra of “chains stores” will have to compete with each other to maintain a market share in oversaturated market.

    In the long run the only people who will lose are the consumers and the employees. It takes a while but that is they it works.

  22. can you imagine being the poor soul working in the mall shop?

    you would be doomed to forever tattoo tribal, dolphins, baby daddy names, and sports logos.

  23. we have tattoo nation stores in Australia, honestly I hope its some type of franchise or different ownership… if that fellow has anything to do with / aproved our local tattoo nation stores then I feel sory for you US guys.

    incredibly scratch-tastic 14y.o tattooing, drunk guys wearing their club patches.

  24. First thing off the top of my head: while this idea does make me happy in the sense that maybe more people becoming more comfortable around tattoos will result in less prejudice towards them (because people are leery of things they don’t understand), but the downfall of this is as the person wrote in comment #1–it leads to commercialization. It’s bad enough that piercing stands exist in malls already; we don’t need shotty tattoos either. (Of course, at least if they are done properly and hygenically I can feel at least a bit better about it, but the question is WILL they?).

    Secondly, McDonaldization. Without launching into the theory, I fear that this will make people think along the lines of “Well, if it’s in the mall that means I can get it done quickly and get whatever I want instantly”. Which, of course, would totally take away from the ever-important fact that a tattoo is a permanent body mod that requires thoughtful planning, careful drafting, and precise (and thereby often timeconsuming) application. It’s not something you just decide to do while you’re at the mall with your pals. I fear that more people will look at it that way if it gets put into more and more malls.

  25. Apparently, the Wall Street Journal got the location of the tattoo shop wrong. It is actually located at the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ. This is correctly identified in the caption of the image, but not in the text of the article itself.

  26. Geralyn Stanley was my high school art teacher, and what this article doesn’t mention is pretty interesting: She’s now apprenticing at Tattoo Nation in Wayne, NJ.

  27. Is the author “Quality” Mario Barth? or maybe a producer of a Tv show…

    or maybe just Sam Walton?

  28. Ha, maybe Seca is just a senile old man!
    Yeah, yeah…and back in your day the Surgeon General didn’t think smoking was bad for you! Get with the program pops.
    Do know anything about real economics? Well, it doesn’t just involve ranting about big bad walmart. You just insinuated that tattoo studios would follow the same economic course as two multi-billion dollar companies who’s stores operate as oligopolies in their communities, laughable.

    And don’t even pull that shit about the revenue not going back into the community in comparison to the dealings of mom & pop shops.
    1) Home depot has donated over 200million to various communities…that’s almost $100,000 per store. Mom and Pop dont have shit on that.
    2) Wayne, NJ is 15 miles from downtown Jersey City…Let’s just say that mom and pop should probably move out if they know what’s best for them.

    And no, unfortunately you wont get to tell the grand kids that Mario Barth just called you out on modblog – That was the work of a punk ass kid in the generation that gets to inherit all of the things your lot fucked up.


  29. You know what, I’m going to sound harsh, but I also don’t care if I do. But fuck Mario Barth, fuck tattooing happening in malls and being concidered a franchise? The second you make our lifestyle and trade into something that can be concidered a chain, your spitting in the face of all the hard workers out there that are tattooing their fucking asses off just to learn and make ends meat. I’m so tired of people thinking that modification is something that can be packaged and sold on shelves and in deals. Grow up world, and please, leave me out of it.

  30. Tattoo nation first opened in willowbrook mall in wayne NJ. number 3 is correct. I pierced there for a couple days as a sub.

  31. What happened to the SLOGAN of this website?
    “I never wanted to be DIFFERENT, I just wanted to BE ME”

    Who cares if people get more horrible tribal tramp stamps and butterflies and zodiac signs? What matters is if the work done is safe and well-done. That’s all you can hope for. So that’s what I hope for with this chain.
    And benefits to the artists is revolutionary. Barth should get a high five.

    You can still turn your nose up, since that’s all you’ve been doing in the comments of this post, because you have “better stuff” on your body.

  32. I can understand some people’s dislike for a chain of tattoo shops popping up in a mall near you. Some people attach a lot o ftheir self-identity on their body mods and all of the sudden someone is out there to further commericalize that. These same people now facing the idea that they might not be special anymore because their is a store in the mall instead of some strip mall. What the hell does it make a difference that a tattoo shop is next to a nail salon or the Gap?

    Tattoos are already mainstream. A chain of stores is just the next step in that evolution. Right now we have reality TV shows about tattoo shops on cable. I highly doubt that a chain of tattoo stores can breed like WalMarts. You do require artists to have training and experience. This isn’t some retail store where the staff is just using a price gun and ringing up customers. You have to hire experienced people to do the work and help train the staff if necessary to have a successful chain. Quality will have to be there to make it last. If not, word will spread really quickly that you should avoid those kind of places. Now as a consumer, you have the right to not shop at those places if you think it is huritng your idea of the body modification community.

    And everybody is not going to go out and get tattoos because their is a store in your mall. That is like the argument that if you legalize drugs that everybody is going to go out and start doing coke. It is laughable. Your mom is not going to stop on by and get some ink done after she is done buying some towels at JC Penny. However, seeing artists working on clinents and bringing tattoos out into the public might help people see that it is not some scary and dirty thing.

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