Kingpin Tattoos

Amanda Chavez tattoos William Byard inside Kingpin Tattoos in Killeen. Chavez is one of the few women tattoo artists in the area and the industry is also male dominated. 

HARKER HEIGHTS — Portraits, landscapes, scenes, shapes, animals, Bible verses, and many other images are forever stamped on three in every 10 American adults, according to a Harris Poll, and the business side of the tattoo industry might be as indelible.

The $1 billion industry is growing fast in the number of people getting inked, but how tattoo shops conduct business is not really changing that much, a Bloomberg Technology article stated. Many tattoo shops take cash only and do not have any plans to change that payment method.

However, a new business practice is on the horizon. Inkbay, a Swedish website is making its way to the U.S. The website is like an Expedia-type of service in which you go online, find a tattoo you want and then pay for it. You select your day and time for the tattoo and then show up without ever having to exchange money at the shop.

Traditionally, if you want a tattoo, you will have to visit the tattoo shop in person and have a consultation with an artist so he or she can look at your skin and size of the area to be tattooed, and then determine the best fit.

“You also want to meet your artist and make sure you like them and want to work with them,” said Shay Haas, owner of Kingpin Tattoo Studio in Harker Heights.

Kingpin is one of the longer running tattoo shops in the Killeen area and has been open for 15 years. Haas, served in the Army and is a former teacher, but has always been an artist. He said he started his own shop so that he could focus on the craft of tattooing and offers words of caution for others wanting to start their own tattoo shop.

“Don’t start your own shop if you’re doing it for the money and lifestyle. This is a craft and many new shops take the craft out of it,” he said.

In the Bloomberg Technology article, Matt Lodder, a lecturer in contemporary art and visual culture at the University of Essex who studies the tattoo industry, thinks the market is too conservative to adopt a disruptive business model.

“Tattoo studios haven’t changed a huge amount since the late-1980s in this country,” Lodder said in the Bloomberg article. “Most tattooists don’t take credit cards; it’s still very much a cash-in-hand business. So I’d be really surprised if anyone seized on this.”

Haas agreed.

“This shop will run the same way it always has and will continue to focus on the craft,” he said.

The state of Texas only requires a shop to be licensed, but does not require individual artists to be certified or licensed.

“No one comes in and makes sure the artists know their blood borne pathogens or about cross contamination, or if they are even an artist,” said Haas.

To determine if a shop is a good fit for you or not, Haas offered a few checklist items to consider.

“Check the artwork and the artist’s portfolio, if the shop has been in business for a while, if the artist has tattoos, if your treated well when you walk in the door, cleanliness of the shop,” Haas said. “Also, go online and look at the website. Look at their work and make sure there aren’t any gimmicky things like buy-one-get-one, kind of things, those should raise red flags. The art should speak for itself and that the artists are decent, genuine people.”

Many tattoo consumers feel the same way and want to meet an artist and see the work they have done before paying for anything.

The tattoo industry is expected to increase by another $4 million over the next five years, but if it will it go digital is yet to be determined.

With that said, some Killeen-area tattoo studios such as Dragon Lady Tattoos in Harker Heights, said they do take credit cards.

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