It’s been a while since I visited a shop in North Jersey, but when I heard that Watchung Custom Tattoo reopened its doors, I had to pay them a visit. So, I took a ride out to beautiful Watchung, NJ and pulled up to 700 Somerset Street. I walked up to the second floor, where I was greeted by owner Andy Capps, who is an industry veteran with about 30-plus years of experience under his belt. He reopened the doors to Watchung Custom Tattoo back in May of this year after taking it over back in February. According to Andy, the shop had been around for 30 years, but when the original owner, Snookie, passed away, the new owner kind of dropped the ball with the upkeep on the shop. When Andy found what was left of the Watchung staple, which was abandoned, he had the idea of gutting out the shop and renovating to return it to its original glory.
I have to say that after he described to me what the place originally looked like when he first took it over, I was really impressed! This place looked like a brand new tattoo shop. It was totally flipped. The walls on the way up the stairs were a light blue decorated with some graffiti. The light blue walls continued into the waiting room accented with a neon green wall adorned with frames of flash art work. You knew instantly that you walked into a tattoo shop. The buzzing of the needles kind of gave that away anyway, but you know what I mean. In front of you are two split-panel doors that lead to where all the magic happens. Typically, the bottom half of the split-panel doors are usually closed, so customers know that they have to wait, but the top half is always open, so that customers can have a peek at what is going on behind the doors, which have walls painted in yellow. In between the two doors is a computer monitor and computer for prospected clients to look up ideas for their tattoo.
I asked Andy my usual first question, “What would make someone like me, who might be shopping tattoo places, come to his shop?” He told me, “Well, we’ll do just about anything for you ranging from old school, traditional to portraits. We’ll do just about anything for you, and Dave is a certified piercer, as well.” Andy was talking about his other artist, Dave Worm, who’s been with Andy since the day he opened. Dave comes to Watchung Custom Tattoo with 11 years of experience. Andy told me that he also has a third tattoo artist, who only works on Thursdays. His name is Marvin Moskowitz. Any tattoo enthusiast would recognize that last name from the famous Moskowitz tattoo family out of the Bowery in NYC. Marvin is the grandson of the legendary Willie Moskowitz and son of Walter Moskowitz of the famed Bowery Boys. According to Marvin, he knows everybody and everybody knows him, but when it comes to how he and Andy connected, they met on Facebook of all places. He had just moved out to Jersey and Andy invited him to tattoo out of his new shop. Marvin happily accepted.
Watchung Custom Tattoo is mainly a custom shop, obviously. Andy specializes in old-school tattooing and black and greys, where Dave will do portraits like there’s no tomorrow, but Andy says that Dave is very well-rounded and can basically tattoo anything. Consultations for prospected clients are always free, but if they have to draw something up, they would need to take a deposit from the customer. Obviously, if it’s something simple that they can draw on the spot, they will draw it right there, but otherwise a deposit is needed. Since he brought up a deposit, I asked him about money and what they typically charge for a tattoo in their shop. Andy told me that for something small, they will charge around $50 and up, and for big custom jobs, they usually charge $125 an hour. To make an appointment, a minimum of a non-refundable $50 deposit is needed, which will go toward the final total of the tattoo. Dave told me that walk-ins are always welcome, but appointments definitely are necessary.
When I asked Andy about an age limit, he told me that they were allowed to tattoo minors, but Somerset County will only allow them to go as low as 16 years old, but the parent has to be present with a matching ID. He also added that if it’s on a minor, it has to be a tasteful tattoo because he couldn’t see tattooing a tasteless tattoo on a minor since it is permanent.
When Andy and I discussed the real problem in the tattoo industry, “at-home scratchers,” or as he called them, “kitchen scratchers,” he said there was nothing they can do about it. It is a problem, but unless they catch these kids tattooing in their houses, there is nothing they can do. He does get a lot of clients coming in asking for cover-up work from these “kitchen scratchers,” but Andy said there really is nothing they can do until the scratch job actually fully heals first and that takes a few weeks. We both agreed this is a horrible thing to see in the industry, so beware of tattoo parties! It’s good to see that shops like Andy’s can benefit from these scratchers though.
Watchung Custom Tattoo is open Monday through Saturday from noon until 9 p.m. and on Sunday for appointments only. Andy says for anyone to feel free and just stop by to see the shop. The place is as immaculate as they come. According to Andy, they take great pride in providing every customer with a clean professional tattoo environment. He assures every customer that they use disposable single-use pre-packaged and pre-serialized equipment to ensure the safety of every one of their clients.
The shop is located at 700 Somerset Street on the second floor in Watchung, NJ. You can call them for more info or an appointment at (908)-756-5900. They currently don’t have a website up yet, but urge you to “Like” them on Facebook by visiting them at facebook.com/watchungcustomtattoo. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with this place and I think that you would be too. Andy also said that they take guest artists whenever they are available. I’m assuming that’s a hint to any tattoo artist out there looking to just tattoo in a different shop other than their own or any artist from out of state.
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 e-mail me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at firstname.lastname@example.org.