Last year, my girl won a trip through work to beautiful Costa Rica! It was there, where we learned the phrase “Pura vida,” which was used as a greeting in this rainforest region. Pura vida translated from Spanish means “the pure life,” “plenty of life” or “full of life.” Anyway, upon our return from our Costa Rican trip, driving down one of the busiest roads in South Jersey, the White Horse Pike, I noticed a tattoo shop called Puravida Tattoo. It was almost like fate! I needed to check out this tattoo shop. It took me about a year to stop in, but I finally got there!
As I drove down the White Horse Pike, I noticed that within a five-mile stretch, I must’ve counted at least four other tattoo parlors on the same road, so I was eager to find out what would set Puravida Tattoo apart from the other shops. I pulled into a parking lot on the side of Puravida (which I assumed was a shared lot with the business next door) and I walked in only to be greeted by the shop’s owner, Chris Hall, who gave me a quick tour of the small South Jersey tattoo gem. Just to paint a quick picture for you, as you walk in the front door, to your left is a raised drawing area, where all the drawing is done before tattooing. Walk a little further and also to your left are two tattooing stations, which is where all the magic happens. To your right against the wall is a motorcycle parked right in the middle of the shop, as Chris tells me that he’s been around motorcycles all his life, and straight ahead in the back is the waiting room with flash artwork on the walls and seats to obviously sit around and wait.
A little about the owner Chris Hall; he’s been tattooing for 20 years and virtually educated himself about the tattoo industry within that time by surrounding himself with “real” people who knew the art and business of tattooing. Chris stated that tattooing kept him out of trouble, and he is grateful for that. He’s a South Jersey boy, who’s traveled all over the country to tattoo and sell his tattoo machines that he built on his own without any help. After traveling the U.S. and selling his machines and artwork, Chris decided to head back to Jersey and in 1999 opened 4130 Tattoo in Burlington, NJ, which he remembers as one of those badass tattoo shops that you would be too intimidated to walk into. Kind of the way it used to be back in the day before tattooing became mainstream and family oriented. Chris explained to me that the shop was just surrounded by metal because 4130 is a type of steel that motorcycles are made from, so he tried to keep that theme. Also, his clientele in the shop were always big, badass looking bikers, which scared away a lot of the mommy and me clientele. Unfortunately, Chris closed that shop in 2006, but he wouldn’t stay down for long, as he opened Puravida Tattoo in 2009!
I asked Chris that, since I saw four other shops within a five-mile stretch before I got to his shop, what would set him apart from the other shops? He told me that his shop was appointment only and they don’t do walk-ins too much. Every shop on the Pike is a $40-$50 minimum, where he has a $75 minimum. At Puravida, they never tattoo the same day that an appointment is made. The client must come in and make a deposit or drop off some artwork that they’d like this way he has a few days to draw what they want, where other shops, you can just walk in that day and get it done. Anybody that comes through his doors is usually pricing, and is in and out. He says that he does find it competitive with all those shops on the same road, but thinks that it should be the way that it was back in the ‘80s, when somebody opened up a shop down the street, you took care of business, and now you can’t do that. Wait! What did he mean by that? Very interesting!
Puravida is strictly a tattoo shop only with no piercing on premises. Chris told me that he tattooed alone when he opened the shop back in 2009, but six months ago, he finally added another artist to his shop in the form of 10-year tattoo veteran, Jason Scott. Chris said that he would rather work every day by himself rather than hire an artist who doesn’t belong in the business, and he was happy to have Jason a part of Puravida. Since he mentioned people who don’t belong in the tattoo business, we touched on the topic of “scratchers,” as they’re called, for a little bit. For those who aren’t sure of that word, a scratcher is someone who is not really a certified tattoo artist. They are people who buy a tattoo kit through a magazine and tattoo their friends at parties and in their own homes, but do the worst work possible—hence the name scratchers. Chris said that scratchers are a constant battle in the industry as of late because of all the TV shows and now everyone thinks they can tattoo. When I asked if he takes on clients who have fallen victim to a scratcher, his response was amazing! He told me that for a good friend, he would do his best to fix it, but for someone he doesn’t really know, he wouldn’t take that job on. Why? Because you chose to take the cheap way out, and now you should suffer from your mistake! He said he’s made his mistakes with tattoos, and had to live with it, but he also learned from it. So should they!
As for age policies, Chris told me that in the state of New Jersey, you could be of any age to get tattooed so long as you have a parent’s consent, but his shop won’t tattoo anyone under 16 years of age. In fact, no children are even allowed in the shop. A minimum deposit of $50 is required for an appointment and all deposits are non-refundable, which he says is always fun to argue with the customers over that policy. He says that he doesn’t charge by the hour, he charges by the sitting, which can be $300 for a four-hour sitting or $400 for a six-hour sitting, with the deposit deducted from the price of the last sitting. Appointments are scheduled from Tuesday through Friday from 12 p.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 3:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., which, not to be confused with the shops hours, are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Walk-in’s are welcome mainly on Fridays and Saturdays and “IF” there is an opening, the walk-in will be taken—but appointments are STRONGLY suggested! Chris tells me that he’s booked up for the next couple of months, so that’s a good sign for business!
If you’re in the South Jersey region near Somerdale, stop in at Puravida Tattoo located at 33 South White Horse Pike in Somerdale, NJ. You can check out their work at puravidatattoo.biz or if you’d like to make an appointment or want more info on the shop, call (856) 435-4130 or email them at email@example.com. This was a great little spot hidden in the depths of South Jersey!
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo spot! Who knows what state it will be in! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest, please email me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at firstname.lastname@example.org.