Florida Keys Business
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Hurts so good
Venomous Ink offers tattoos and piercings on the boulevard

Permanent, personal and, yes, painful.

Such are the three words most commonly used to describe tattoos.

"I'm not gonna lie, it does hurt," is how tattoo artist J.D. Hoadley sums up the pain factor. "But everyone has different pain thresholds."

That said, you don't see many people with just half of a dolphin, peace sign or dragon adorning their body. And given the statistic that 70 percent of people who get one tattoo get another, the pain is apparently tolerable for the one in five Americans who currently have at least one tattoo.

Hoadley opened Venomous Ink Tattoos and Piercings with business partner Shaun Murphy on Dec. 30 on North Roosevelt Boulevard.

The shop is the third tattoo studio on the island of Key West, and the only one currently in New Town.

Hoadley and Murphy met while they each were working at the two competing tattoo studios on Duval Street.

"Owning my own studio had been my goal since I started tattooing in 2005," Hoadley said, adding that he got his first permanent and personal ink injection at age 18, the minimum age allowed by law for a person to get tattooed without parental permission. It is a dragon on his chest.

"If it were up to me, I'd even raise the minimum age to 25," said Hoadley. "People think they know what they want when they're 18. But by 25, they definitely know what they want. But even then, I always try to talk people out of getting someone's name tattooed on their body. If it's your mother, your child, your father, that's one thing, but wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends come and go."

Hoadley and Murphy don't just discourage drunk people from getting tattooed, they send them away with orders to "Come back when you're sober."

Not only are drunk people more likely to regret their irrevocable decision in the morning, but after more than one or two alcoholic drinks, the blood starts to thin, affecting the final appearance of the tattoo.

"We don't want people unhappy with their decision or their tattoo, so I'll always tell them to come back when they're sober," Hoadley said. "I also tell them to eat Jello, because it's a natural coagulant. That's why hospitals are always forcing Jello on patients."

On the clean, white walls of Venomous Ink hangs the requisite "flash," or predesigned drawings of commonly desired tattoos. The flash will include cartoon characters, college mascots, military insignias, dolphins, suns, moons, stars, peace signs and thousands of other designs.

But the coffee table in the waiting area of Venomous Ink is also lined with Murphy's and Hoadley's personal portfolios of tattoos they have drawn, designed and applied to clients over the years.

"We offer customized work, and will always be happy to work with a customer to draw up exactly what they want," Hoadley said, emphasizing that they're not happy until the customer is 100 percent satisfied with both the original drawing and the finished tattoo.

"We've got the best prices for the best tattoos and a friendly staff," Hoadley said. "We treat everyone with respect and kindness -- the way we'd expect to be treated."

There is no eye rolling when an 18-year-old girl comes in with her girlfriends wanting a peace sign or a sun. No one is made to feel intimidated by the more experienced, "veteran" tattoo recipients.

Hoadley and Murphy understand that every one of their tattoo-covered clients started, at some point, with a single embellishment.

The same goes for Mel "T.," the resident piercing specialist at Venomous Ink, who puts customers instantly at ease with her outgoing demeanor and friendly smile.

She offers surface and dermal piercings of "all places."

"I've done it all," she said, nodding knowingly with raised eyebrows.

And everyone is made to feel welcome at Venomous Ink.

"I tattooed a 78-year-old woman last week," Hoadley said. "She got a hibiscus flower and a hummingbird. And I have an appointment with an 80-year-old woman on Wednesday. I don't know what she wants yet."

On Thursday, Murphy was working on a colorful "sleeve" tattoo for a client from Maryland who had waited a full year to continue his tattoo, because Murphy was the only artist he wanted to do the work.

"My wife and I were here last year when Shaun was on Duval Street, so I started it with him there, and then waited a year until we came back. My wife found Shaun on Facebook, so we knew he had opened his own shop, and here I am," said Stefan Mach, whose left arm is quickly filling with colorful, philosophical images, including Socrates, a proverb and a compass rose to always point to "true north."

Venomous Ink is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

For information, call the shop at 305-896-9011 or, find them on Facebook.


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