Since making my move to South Jersey, I’ve been meaning to check out this tattoo shop close by, but never had a chance until now. The shop is called Dead Sparrow Tattoo, and back when I was asked to take a look at this shop, it housed artist Lara Slater from Oxygen TV’s Best Ink. Well, I stopped in on a Saturday afternoon, and as luck would have it, Lara is still tattooing at the Dead Sparrow.
Anyway, the Dead Sparrow is located on the White Horse Pike in Clementon, NJ, which is one of the busiest roads in the area, so when it comes to location, they already win. When I first moved down here, this shop was originally called Twisted Vision Tattoo, but current owner, Mike Oliver, bought Twisted Vision from its previous owner, Bob Solitaire, and opened as the Dead Sparrow Tattoo in January 2011.
I walked into what looked like a small shop at first, with a small waiting room when you walk in and two tattoo stations to the right down the hallway straight ahead. To the left was another hallway leading to a larger tattooing area. When you walk in, there’s a wall portfolio on the blue painted wall and on the table below the portfolio are books featuring each of the five artists housed at Dead Sparrow, including Mike Oliver, Lara Slater, Rachel Mumie, Nicole Auletto, and Brett Breadling, who recently finished up a his apprenticeship with the shop. Brett was the first person that I met in Dead Sparrow, while I waited to chat with Mike. I also met a badass looking dude in the waiting area while I waited named Phil, whom I bonded with on a conversation about martial arts. Well, Phil had nothing but great things to say about his experience with Dead Sparrow. He was in the middle of a sleeve session with Mike, who was working on a Knights Templar-themed sleeve for Phil, and it looked outstanding! Phil told me that he loved coming to the Dead Sparrow, not only for the work, but also to hang with the artists because he said it had this “family atmosphere where everyone is so friendly, you feel comfortable busting balls in this place.”
Owner Mike Oliver walked in and since I didn’t really make an appointment to see him and he already had Phil waiting for him, I made my visit a quick one, introduced myself and asked a few questions about the shop. Mike says he bought this shop because it was always special to him since it was where he got his start. He did all of his first tattoos at this location for the five years that he worked for Bob Solitaire. Before he came back and bought the shop he started at, he worked at Chris Gamm’s Under The Gun Tattoo Saloon in Sewell for seven years, and he remains friends with Gamm today.
I asked Mike how solidly booked he was, and he told me that he’s been pretty booked. He doesn’t get much time off with his busy scheduling, so when a client cancels at the last minute on him, he feels like, “Ah! A free minute!” Now that’s a busy tattoo artist! Mike said because of this, he typically doesn’t charge a deposit when a client is booking an appointment. He also said walk-ins are always welcome and usually go to the newcomer, Brett, but appointments are basically necessary for himself and Lara. When I asked about ages, Mike was quick to respond that 18 was the age limit, but he’ll tattoo 16 year olds if they come in with a parent.
The shop was extremely clean and a lot bigger than I thought when I first walked in. Brett told me all of their machines are autoclave sterilized on a nightly basis and all needles are single-use needles. I turned my attention back to Mike and asked him how he survives with all of the competition in South Jersey and Philadelphia, and told me that he already had a pretty loyal client list and by word of mouth, he always finds himself busy and because of this, he’s never worried about competition. In fact on the shop’s website, he wrote: “To all my tattoo artist neighbors on the White Horse Pike. There are a lot of you and I will try to stop by and say hello out of respect to you all and hope I am welcomed back to the WHP. There are more than enough people in South Jersey who love getting tattooed to go around! And I want us all to be successful for many years. Please stop by and visit me anytime as well. Cheers!” Now, that is respect if I’ve ever seen it.
If you’re ever in South Jersey, first of all, hit me up, but secondly, stop down by Clementon and visit Mike Oliver’s Dead Sparrow Tattoo located at 124 White Horse Pike. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. till 9 p.m. and closed on Sundays and Mondays. For more info or to book an appointment, you can call the shop at (856) 783-5008 or visit their website DeadSparrow856.com. This is a great spot with some amazing artists. I just wish I was able to stop by sooner.
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.