Inked Out: Empire Tattoo Inc.

I came across a pretty cool tattoo shop down here in South Jersey recently while I was on my way to a class. The name of the place is Empire Tattoo Inc. and apparently, it’s a small chain with locations in Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and right here in Clementon, New Jersey.

I made a quick stop in to check the place out and ask a few questions about the place. The shop itself is a cute little spot in a strip mall, just like everything else in South Jersey. I walked into a shop that seemed very familiar to me. It just felt like a tattoo shop with the buzzing of needles in the artists’ workspace, the walls adorned with artwork, a waiting room with portfolios, and a reception desk with sellable items like clothing, aftercare products, and body piercing jewelry since Empire Tattoo does offer piercing. The thing that really sets Empire apart from other shops in the region is the artwork. As I skimmed through a few of the portfolios, I was blown away by the detail and the perfect lines. How did I not find this place sooner?

I was greeted by a dude named Jim, who said he was the piercer, but later found out on shop’s website that he was Jim Kelly, the shop manager. Jim’s been with the shop since it opened back in 2008. A little background on the shop; after Empire Tattoo opened its doors right here in Clementon back in 2008, the company started to blossom leading to new locations being opened in Somerville and Quincy, Massachusetts, Somers Point at the Jersey shore, and in Pittsburgh. Year in and year out, Empire Tattoo has been turning out quality tattoos, earning them awards for their hard work. Empire’s artists specialize in all styles of tattooing from portraits to traditional to new school to black and grey work to realism to lettering, just to name a few.

When I asked Jim why a customer like myself would choose Empire Tattoo to get my next tattoo as opposed to another shop down the street, he told me that as a shop, their goal is to not only do an amazing tattoo, but they will go above and beyond any client’s expectations. He continued, “With this in mind, not only do we have flash at the studio for you to choose from, but you’re welcome to bring in any image you have found or simply tell one of our tattooers your idea and they will have it come to life. All of our tattooers can conquer tattoos from the size of a quarter to full sleeves and back pieces.”

My next question for Jim was if Empire Tattoos accepts walk-ins or not. He said that his tattooers are not only available daily for walk-ins, but they’re also available to book appointments with for custom artwork, which is technically their specialty. He also said that his shop is fully staffed at all times, but each artist does keep their own schedules, so he urges clients that if they are seeking a specific artist, to always call the shop before just stopping in like I just did. He also said that each of the Empire Tattoo locations offer body piercing with piercers available at all times, like himself.

During my short visit, I noticed that Jim kept on pointing out that cleanliness was a goal for this shop. He said that they autoclave all of their machines on premise, which is spore tested every month. The shop is cleaned every day to maintain their strict clean environment. Also, not only are their artists licensed in each county, but they’re trained in First Aid, CPR and Biomedical waste, just to insure each client’s safety and to have the cleanest tattoo environment for their customers.

I almost forgot the most important part about Empire Tattoo Inc.: the artists that work out of there. There’s Rafael Serrano, who seems to be the vet in the shop; he’s been tattooing for about 12 years. Then there’s Matt Doherty and Reuben, who have been at it for about 10 years now. Doug Sparks has been tattooing for nine years and specializes in Japanese art. Chris “Stretch” Shockley has been tattooing since 2010 and specializes in realism, traditional and black and grey. And there are the newcomers, who have been tattooing for a couple years like Jeff Bermingham and Henry Gabner. This seems to be a pretty well-rounded crew and based on their artwork, it’s no wonder they’re one of the best in South Jersey.

When I asked Jim about pricing, he told me that there is a minimum price of $60, but their typical hourly rates range from $100 to $200 an hour. He did add that each artist might charge different hourly rates based on the work involved, so he urges prospective clients to get a quote from the individual artist they’d like to work with or the store manager, which is Jim. Of course, I had to ask about the age restrictions in this shop, and he said that at Empire Tattoo, they are pretty strict. For tattoos, you must be 18 years old with a valid state ID. Anyone under the age of 18 must show some form of ID and must be accompanied by their parent or legal guardian who also has a valid state photo ID. For body piercing, you must also be 18 years old with a valid ID, while minors 15, 16 or 17 years of age must have a valid school ID and must be accompanied by their parent or legal guardian who also has a valid state ID.

If you’re ever in the Clementon, NJ area, you might want to check this shop out. I happened to stumble across it, but they’re located at 2001 College Drive in Clementon, and they’re open seven days a week. They say it’s always best to call first if you have an artist in mind to find out when that artist will be available. You can do so by calling (856) 784-5111 or email them at You can also take a look at their website at or “Like” them on Facebook after you’ve seen their artwork at

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