My friend Michelle recently tipped me off to a shop in Newfoundland, NJ. Yes, I thought the same exact thing that you’re thinking right now…Where is Newfoundland, NJ? Well, it’s in the middle of nowhere, just before Dunkin Donuts. Actually, the shop is called Monarch Tattoo and it’s located at 2915 Route 23 South, Newfoundland, NJ. Monarch has been at this location for the past 11 years. In fact, they’re considered the red-headed stepchild of a shop that I featured last month, Shotsie’s Tattoo. Monarch, which used to be called Shotsie’s Tattoo West, was bought from the legendary Shotsie by artist Jen Carmean and reopened as Monarch Tattoo on October 16, 2004.
So, as I made my way out to Newfoundland, NJ, I must have driven up and down Route 23 about 10 times before I found the shop, which is in the middle of nowhere. Did I say that already? Anyway, I walked into the shop only to find a really neat and clean office space with four separate rooms, one for each artist to do their thing. The vibe in this establishment felt great from the second that I walked in.
This month’s featured artist John Bergin III, who introduced me to owner/artist Jen Carmean, greeted me. Jen, at the moment, was tattooing a killer dragonhead on a guy named Jay. I mean, I literally just walked into the shop and was impressed with their shop presentation and artwork within less than five minutes. Jen got her start in Las Vegas, learning from an artist named Creeper. Creeper let Jen tattoo four days a week in his shop, giving her tons of experience. She moved back to Jersey and worked for Shotsie for eight years before convincing him to sell her his smaller shop location.
Jen told me that Monarch Tattoo is not a typical walk-in shop because of its location. It’s strictly appointment- based. “Most of the shop’s appointments are repeat clients anyway,” Jen said. She also added that the majority of their clientele is from way out of the area. No one is local or from Newfoundland. Then again….who is from Newfoundland? Anyway, she said that her clientele travels from as far as Philadelphia on a regular basis. Jen also said that she has many customers in Bergen County, and a strong following coming in from Central Jersey. For the most part, Monarch has gained its reputation through word of mouth. Word of mouth seems to be working because Jen, herself, is booked through October.
Monarch Tattoo is a shop that does mostly large custom pieces that usually take a few days to do. The flash art in the shop is slowly being whittled out and custom pieces seem to be taking over. Before Monarch’s business started to pick up, Jen used to draw flash art to keep busy and then she would sell her artwork to tattoo shops for extra cash. These days it seems that Jen and her boys are busier than ever even though she says that the summer months seem to be their slow period. Jen says that her customers are smart and know not to go swimming or in the sun with freshly tattooed skin. So to avoid that, they just don’t get tattooed in the summer.
Monarch Tattoo’s clientele, on the average, are over 30s men and women. They get their occasional minor, who comes in with a waiver signed by a legal guardian first. Jen said that the minors that do come to the shop to get tattooed are usually kids of her customers. Her clientele are also repeat tattoo customers. She doesn’t get many people coming in for their first tattoo. Not that the shop doesn’t get what’s known as “virgin skin,” they just don’t get them that much. After talking prices with Jen, it sounded like Monarch was charging just what most shops are charging now, $160 per hour, which is on the average, but after watching Jen work on this guy Jay’s chest piece, I have to say that her work is worth way more than $160 per hour. That’s actually a bargain.
Jen’s staff at Monarch Tattoo has a total of over 50 years of tattoo experience. Her staff includes John Bergin III (who also is a Monarch original), and the new guys to the staff, Jeff Gashler and Lou Morgue. Monarch Tattoo recently also got approved to pierce, and handling those duties will be the lovable Lou Morgue. And from what Jen told me, getting the piercing approved was a major ordeal, but they do have it now, so everybody go down there to get pierced. If you plan on making an appointment with the shop, you can call and talk to the newest member of the Monarch family Justin Devo at 973-697-0032. If you want to see what kind of work they do, you can go to their website, monarchflash.com or go to their myspace page, myspace.com/monarchtattoo. For those of you who just want to stop into the shop and check it out for yourself (and I think you should!), Monarch is located at 2915 Route 23 South, Newfoundland, NJ, right next to a really cool shop that was set to open last weekend called Rebel Outfitters. Jen told me that she felt that it was great that this new rock clothing store was going to open next door to her because that could generate more business for her and vise versa. In fact, Monarch Tattoo took part in the Grand Opening of Rebel Outfitters. I think that if more people knew about this combo of tattoo and rock clothes they would have to expand that parking lot because that place would be packed everyday.
Before I end this feature, I just want to pay tribute to a pioneer of the piercing industry here in Jersey. He was a man that everybody knew and loved as Wild Bill. The legendary Wild Bill, who was the owner and founder of Pleasurable Piercings in Hawthorne, NJ, passed away a few weeks ago. Wild Bill revolutionized the piercing industry in the North Jersey area and was a staple there for many years. Wild Bill will be missed by many who knew him.
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo place! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest to me please e- mail me. Send the name of the tattoo place, the address and phone number and the person to contact.