When I was in high school, dreaming of getting tattooed, the one place that all of my friends started getting them at was this place up on Route 23 in Wayne, NJ, called Shotsie’s Tattoo. In fact, Shotsie’s, which was named after its legendary former owner Shotsie Gorman, was probably the first tattoo place for many people from the North Jersey region. The name, the legend, and the history of what is known as Shotsie’s Tattoo is what lured me into this shop, and this is why I chose to feature them this month.
I walked into the shop as it was just opening at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, and was welcomed like we were all old friends. One of the artists, Scotty a.k.a. the Flying Ace, I’ve known because he’s tattooed the majority of my friends. So, as I walked in, I re- introduced myself to him and then I was introduced to Shotsie’s Tattoo’s new owner Gary, or Gar, as everyone else called him. Gary bought the shop back in March of 2006 from Shotsie Gorman, who’s retired from tattooing and has moved out of Jersey. This legendary shop has been situated on Route 23 South in Wayne, NJ, for 17 years now. Prior to its current location, Shotsie’s Tattoo was located in Haledon, NJ, for 12 years. Gary’s roster boasts seven talented and experienced artists who are constantly booked. Those artists include Gary himself, Scotty a.k.a. Flying Ace, Kerry, Chris, Mick (who also does the piercing), Lucky Mike, and the token hottie, Azarja. Lucky Mike and Azarja are the youngest with only three years of tattooing experience, but both proved to be just as capable as the rest of the staff.
Gar told me that he didn’t change the name when he bought the shop from Shotsie simply because everyone knows the name Shotsie’s Tattoo. They have customers from out of state coming in just to get tattooed there because of the name so it wouldn’t make sense to change it. He also told me that the shop is busy all year around with the exception of the holiday season ranging from after Thanksgiving till around after Christmas. Gar added that just because they weren’t busy tattooing, it didn’t mean that they weren’t making money. In fact, during the holiday season, Shotsie’s Tattoo gift certificates were a hot item. Gar remembers coming into the shop the day before Christmas Eve, only to find a line of people looking to buy gift certificates. The gift certificates that were sold on the average were between $175 to about $350, which covered one to two hours worth of work. Some customers would even go as far as spending thousands of dollars on gift certificates. So, it’s safe to say, Shotsie’s is always busy, no matter what.
The shop itself was extremely clean and has a very comfortable vibe to it, so comfortable that people who aren’t getting tattooed even come in just to hang out with Gar and his crew. Like my buddy, P.J. said, “Shotsie’s is like a barber shop for tattoos.” I couldn’t agree with that statement more because I honestly didn’t want to leave. Shotsie’s Tattoo brings in a bit of a middle-aged clientele ranging from the age of late 20s to about 40 with your occasional 60-year-olds coming in and even 80-year- olds. Yes, I said 80-year-olds! This blew me away! In fact, it’s so common that each artist keeps a tally of how many 80-year-olds they’ve done, which I found hilarious. Many of the 60+ customers are usually first time tattoo customers. Another thing that I found amazing about their clientele was when Gar told me that members of the clergy were coming in and getting tattooed. Yes, the clergy! That means preachers, ministers, reverends, priests, and deacons. I thought it was against their religion? You really do learn something new every day.
Old people and the clergy are not the only customers that frequent Shotsie’s Tattoo. In fact, their celebrity clientele is pretty impressive. From the entertainment world, Lenny Kravitz, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot, “America’s Next Top Model” Eva Pigford, “The Beast” on Broadway’s Beauty And The Beast Steve Blanchard, the late Allen Woody from The Allman Brothers and members of My Chemical Romance. From the sports world, Gar says that there were so many that have come in and out of the shop. Off the top of his head he was able to name the late NJ Nets player Yinka Dare, NY Giant Will Allen and NJ Devil Colin White. Now, these celebs didn’t come to Shotsie’s Tattoo because they happened to drive by it. They came to it because of the shop’s reputation.
When I asked Gar if there was anything that his shop would say “no” to, he told me that Shotsie’s won’t tattoo anyone under the age of 16, they won’t tattoo anything racist or offensive, and they won’t tattoo certain areas of the body that the shop deems as unacceptable, which seems to be the norm in most shops that I’ve visited. Shotsie’s does anything custom or out of the flash book. They cater to the customer. Walk-in customers are accepted as long as there is an artist available, but with seven artists on staff, I’m sure there will be at least one artist available.
Gar also told me something really cool. Not only is it his birthday this week, but he also told me that in a few months, he’ll be running in a couple of marathons to raise money for The Lamp for Haiti Foundation. Alright, like one marathon wasn’t enough. Gar will be running a marathon in Dublin, Ireland, and then five days later, he’ll be back in the US to run the NYC Marathon. He’ll be doing this for a great organization that is looking to raise money to send medicine to Haiti since they are a third world country and can’t afford the medicine that we have here in the US. This is a great thing that Gar is doing. If you wish to donate to this foundation or sponsor Gar as he runs his ass off, you can do so by dropping a check off to Gary down at Shotsie’s Tattoo or you can log on to lampfoundation.org
Shotsie’s Tattoo has been the training place for many tattoo artists who own their own shops in Jersey today. To me, it seemed like the granddaddy of tattoo shops in the North Jersey region, if not all of Jersey, with a new and improved staff. I’m happy that I finally got back over to Shotsie’s to check them out. I got the feeling that I made some new friends on this day. If you want to check out what Shotsie’s is all about, you can visit them online at shotsiestattoo.com or you can just stop down at the shop and take a look. Shotsie’s Tattoo is located at 1275 Route 23 South in Wayne, NJ. If you want to make an appointment, you can call Joe, who manages the front desk, at 973-633-1411.