By Bill Cohen
New York City lifted its ban on tattooing in 1997, and body art’s ascendance in popular culture wasn’t far behind. Since, Bay Ridge has had several shops, new and old, with a few staple storefronts that have served tattoo clients in southern Brooklyn in the last two decades.
Brooklyn Ink (462 87th Street), a traditional shop, just celebrated 10 years in business under its current team of owners, and it’s one of five establishments presently tattooing in Bay Ridge. Its proximity to 86th Street—the busiest part of our area—makes the shop a convenient go-to.
Joe Mags and “Old School” Alex have owned it since 2005. “Great location, great neighborhood,” Mags recently told me. Originally from Marine Park, Joe had been living in Staten Island and working at the shop for about a year when the previous owner sold it to him and Alex. The staff has grown to include Chuck Daly, a previous owner of Jersey City Tattoo Company, Brittany Bauza and Matt Huff, who also does body piercing.
The versatility of the staff is a selling point. “We proudly do all styles of tattooing, which is a big aspect of our shop,” Mags said. “We believe you should be able to do pretty much anything that walks through the door. We are here to serve the public, and tattoo what the client wants to the best of our ability.” (Black-and-gray, Japanese, and American-traditional are the most common styles these days.) Joe said the neighborhood hasn’t changed much in the 10 years since he took over the business. The big change, he says, has come in the form of what the clients are asking for. “The days of tribal butterflies and Japanese kanji are gone,” he says, “and the era of religious black-and-gray and Japanese sleeves is here. Which is great for us!”
Brooklyn Ink is one of the few shops that still makes its own needles, mixes its own pigments, and paints its own flash. In addition, Mags said, the shop “gave traditional apprenticeships to three of the five artists who have worked [or] still work [here].” It’s an aspect of the tattoo business that often goes unnoticed. “We want only the best product [for] our clients,” Mags said, adding that the “level of hands-on we put into out craft” is something he’s especially proud of.
Bill Cohen lives in Bay Ridge and runs the tattoo-appreciation site Tattoosday.