By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
King Street, with its historic character and charming streets, doesn’t seem like an obvious location to open a tattoo parlor. Inq, however, is far from your typical tattoo shop.
The new business opened at 1011 King St. on July 30. With its bright atmosphere and experience-driven approach, inq is attempting to break the stereotypes associated with the tattoo industry.
Inq’s tagline is, “the tattoo experience, reimagined.” True to the motto, the studio aims to provide a transparent, educational and spa-like customer experience, from the time someone considers getting a tattoo to the moment they’re walking out the door, according to Maria Joukov, one of the shop’s founders.
Joukov and her husband, Peter, developed the idea for the studio when they were considering getting tattoos for themselves.
“We just kind of started looking around and really found that not a lot of the places out there would deliver the kind of experience we wanted,” Joukov said. “We started doing some research, talking with some friends who are tattoo-enthusiasts, talking to tattoo artists, and kind of found out that we weren’t the only people who had the same concerns.”
Realizing there was a demand for a different kind of tattoo parlor, the Joukovs decided to open their own.
Collectively, the two have either started or helped start six different companies in various fields, including real estate, private equity and government consulting, Joukov said. With their start-up experience, the Joukovs were able to open inq less than a year after they began the process in August 2018.
The inq concept is built around studio design, customer education, transparency and technology, Joukov said. She said the education aspect was one of the major pieces missing at a lot of parlors.
“I don’t want to trash talk the current [tattoo] environment because there are a lot of incredible artists and a lot of people have great experiences,” Joukov said. “For me personally, I think there wasn’t enough of that education process, and I think a lot of places, you’re kind of expected to go into knowing what you’re getting.”
By providing a new type of experience, Joukov said she hoped inq would appeal to all types of clientele.
“With tattoos being as widespread as they are, we’re really cognizant of the fact that there’s no longer so much of a stigma attached to them,” Joukov said. “I’d get comments that I don’t look like somebody who would have a tattoo. There’s no longer that notion. There’s no longer a notion of what a person with tattoos is or isn’t.”
The inq experience begins with the studio’s aesthetics. White walls, natural light, plant life and comfortable seating areas make the space feel more like a spa than a tattoo parlor.
“A lot of the other studios I’ve worked [at] and have been to, they’re really kind of dark,” inq artist Cameron Hobbs said. “This is kind of the exact opposite of what you usually see as far as things are white, [there are] a lot of flowers and all that stuff. So for me, I feel like it’s a more relaxing atmosphere versus tough and grungy.”
The studio features a front seating area with water and retail products, a consultation space where clients can meet with artists to ask questions and discuss their tattoo designs and three semi-private tattoo rooms that resemble a dentist’s office.
In addition to the inviting atmosphere, inq attempts to comfort its patrons before they take the tattoo plunge with various services. They provide design consultations, where customers can work one-on-one with an artist to solidify their tattoo design. Inq also offers temporary tattoos for people who want to test size or placement of a tattoo before making it permanent.
In addition, the company aims to be technology-forward by offering digital design quotes, an online appointment booking portal and other online educational resources, including detailed information about how the tattooing process works, how to choose a design and how to take care of new tattoos.
Not only is inq shaking up tattoo experience for customers, it’s also changing it for the artists.
“All our artists are going to be salaried employees, as opposed to the current model where a lot of them are independent contractors,” Joukov said. “[We’re] really trying to focus on building a more team-friendly atmosphere, instead of having people compete with one another for clients.”
Inq’s three artists will work toward team goals, where everyone gets rewarded, rather than individual goals. The artists will also have more regular hours than a typical tattoo artist. Inq is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Artist Nick Dorset said without the competitive environment that a lot of studios have, he could focus more on the art.
“The most rewarding types of experiences in tattooing are when you can get to know people on a personal level and then your work can do something significant for them in their life. Something that makes them feel more comfortable in their bodies,” Dorset said. “I like to do scar cover-up work and pigmentation adjustment and things like that. … That’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t know about.”
Lead artist Ray “Capt Lu” Figueroa said he was so drawn to the inq concept, he came out of retirement to join the team.
“I think it’s going to go very, very far, quite honestly,” Figueroa said. “And I’ve tattooed in 46 states and three countries, so I’ve seen the different tattooing studios, where they’ve started to where they’re going, and that’s why I decided to jump out of retirement and get back into the workforce because like I said, I’ve been doing this for 48 years and I really like the concept, where they’re going.”
Joukov said she hoped that change in the tattoo world would drive inq’s success.
“One of the things that’s so cool about it is … it’s a practice that’s been around for thousands of years and what I really love is the opportunity to take something that’s been around for that long and really adapt it and change it into a great experience for today’s smart consumer and for today’s professional artists,” Joukov said.