MARTINS FERRY -There are numerous reasons you could point to as to why Hot Rod Tattooing has not only flourished during its 15 years in downtown but also become an budding Ohio Valley institution.
But when you get right down to it, it boils down to two key components - pride of ownership and pride in the work.
Need an example? Look no further than the tattoo shop itself.
A?FEW of the artists at Hot Rod Tattooing in Martins Ferry take a brief respite from their busy schedules. From front to back, are: Autumn Jones, apprentice piercer; Andrew D’Cagna, manager; Randy Oiler, apprentice artist; Chad Ramsay, artist and John Scott “Sweet Chuck” “Schorr, owner and artist. Artists Ron Meyers and Corey Cuc, along with piercer Wendi Wentzell are at a convention in Detroit this weekend and were absent from the picture.
Owner and artist John Scott Schorr, or Sweet Chuck as he's known to anyone who walks through the door, first opened Hot Rod in town in 1997.
After establishing a foothold and easing any concerns of residents about having such a business in town, he moved to the current location in the heart of Martins Ferry.
That was eight years ago. The building, safe to say, has come quite a ways from the date of purchase.
"I took a piece of property that was pretty bad and, in the last eight years, I've put around $200,00 into this building ... remodeling, restructuring, all the things you to do make your building last.," Schorr said. "It's 130 years old and it should stand another 130 years. You couldn't have said that when it was first purchased."
Given the work quality produced by Hot Rod's four main artists, Schorr probably didn't have to spend quite that much on the facility and still would have attracted the business he does today.
But he felt it was necessary.
Schorr is cognizant of the negative opinions that sometimes form about tattoo shops, those that work inside and those that offer their patronage.
An uneducated populace is partly to blame. But non-professionals who don't take their job seriously are just as much, if not more so, to blame.
"We spend most of our lives here. We work here and spend more time here then we do at home," Schorr said. "We wanted it to be a place we felt comfortable.
"In an industry overpopulated by less than honorable people, it's important to be a spokesperson for the honorable side of tattooing.
That's represented the moment you walk through the door. The building itself is the first impression."
Fast forward to now. You'd be hard pressed to find a large swathe of wall that hasn't been decorated with paintings, memorabilia, examples of tattoos. Each artists room inside is decorated to their particular tastes. There is an ample waiting room, a fully outfitted skate shop and even immaculately clean bathrooms.
Parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to visit the skate shop. The fact it's inside the tattoo parlor never comes into question because there isn't a worry. That's a reputation built on years of dependability and hard work.
Initially, Hot Rod was known as the cleanest shop locally, both overall and in particular with cross contamination control and safety. It still is known as the cleanest.
But now, it's the work that has come to the forefront.
Hot Rod's four tattoo artists are known far and wide, well beyond the borders of the Ohio Valley.
Not all are Ohio Valley natives but all have come to call the area home. Schorr laid the groundwork to bring in such artists with his meticulous upkeep of the studio. He continues it by creating a great working environment by the arists in his employ.
And artists is the key word.
"I'm smart enough to put people around me that are better than I am," "Schorr said.
"And my ego is secure enough that I can take working with people who smoke me in regards to some aspects of tattooing."
Schorr is no slouch. People come from all around requesting "Sweet Chuck" by name. But he's not the only one.
Ron Meyers is one of the premier portrait artists in the country. Like fellow artist Corey Cuc and piercer Wendi Wentzll, he's a Michigan native.
He's been all over, yet he calls Hot Rod and the Ohio Valley home.
"Pick up a hard cover book on tattooing and there will be a page or two on Ron Meyers. Last year, I think he had six international magazine articles and three different books feature him," Schorr said. "He's exceptional at what he does.
"You really have to be empathetic and feel for your clients to be able to produce that sort of life in your art. And he's able to do that."
Chad Ramsay is 32 years old and is already an accomplished in his field. Previously working for Schorr, he moved to Chicago to make it big and did so. However, when he started a family, Ramsay decided the big city wasn't the best place to stick around and he returned.
"Chad is a household name in Chicago," Schorr said. "He is super accomplished for being a 32-year-old tattoo artist. He owns an ink company that is distributed in 20 countries and is only used by pro tattooers. He has a really good reputation as someone who understands the chemistry of what we do."
Corey and Wendi made their mark in Ann Arbor and decided to come here.
What it adds up to is a one of a kind experience you won't find anywhere else locally. Or regionally for that matter. There is a reason people come from hours away to get inked at Hot Rod.
"We've put Ferry on the map for something other than high school sports and I'm very proud of that and take that responsibility very seriously," Schorr said. "In this industry, roughly 80 percent of the tattooers out there have no business being in tattooing or body modification. This is a professional shop and I don't want to see professional tattooing thought of any other way."
These aren't just tattoos and it's not just about getting "inked." What Schorr and his staff provide is living art that moves and is carried with you for eternity. That's a great responsibility and one that's taken with great care.
Schorr believes primarily, those that get tattoos fall into two categories: a collector of art or someone trying to associate with a sub culture.
"We try to be the tattoo shop for the art collector and associate with certain, more positive sub-cultures," Schorr said. "The guy that has a $5,000 painting above their mantle will come in and want $5,000 sleeves or a back piece. It's the same clientele."
If judging by the amount of clientele, it's not out of the question to eventually see Schorr and Hot Rod celebrating its 30th anniversary one day and beyond.
For more information, check out Hot Rod online at www.hotrodtattooing.com or join its Facebook page by searching for Hot Rod Tattooing.
Hughes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org