OK, be honest, when you think of places to get body art, the last name one might expect is Good Life Tattoos & Piercings in Highland Square. An habitué of such places might even think twice.
But Good Life co-owner Jeremiah Currier says when he and business partner and tattoo artist, Jesse Strother, were coming up with a name (formerly Akron Ink), they wanted to create one that was "inviting, positive ... that all you have to do is add tattoos and piercings at the end of it and know what we are."
Some back story: Strother has the name tattooed on his knuckles. Readers likely would acknowledge inked bodies and piercings have become far more mainstream. Tattoos aren't just for the bad boy straddling a Hog without wearing a helmet while ripping down I-77, nor are piercings only adorning those crazed killers chasing bad-acting teenagers in direct-to-DVD movies.
Far from it.
And contrary to what some may think about the cleanliness of such places, Good Life, voted Fox Akron/Canton City-Voter's best Tattoo & Piercing shop in 2008/2009, and Beacon's Best in 2010, must meet stringent health codes, with regular checks by the Akron Health Department.
Currier recalls a former Good Life health inspector training a newbie, who was told, "I brought you here first so you know what other shops should look like."
Growing up in Cuyahoga Falls and Akron, Currier has been a professional body piercer for about 11 years. Before, he worked for the Falls' building and ground maintenance department.
Currier's frame is abundant with tattoos, about 40 to 50 he guesses, receiving his first at 18 years old on the inside of his lip. Interestingly, he concedes: "I don't do tattoos. Friends told me I'm pretty terrible at it."
He has, however, inked a few friends who have lost bets, one of whom is a "buddy who has my initials and a heart tattooed on his ankle."
Currier has two nostril piercings neatly aligned that look like two tiny amber beads. He let his other piercings go because he didn't want the maintenance. With clients from Cleveland, Columbus, Buffalo, Indiana and West Virginia, Currier affords them the same professionalism and industry knowledge he expects from artists who've worked on him.
While he says there are no "set requirements or standards for tattoo/piercing training ... legally you can open a shop and the first customer who walks through the door can be the first tattoo you've ever done," he has done apprenticeships with other seasoned artists as has his staff.
And he follows the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), which sets industry guidelines, offers ongoing education such as oral anatomy and sterilizing techniques (www.safepiercing.org) and promotes "insanely clean practices."
Pricing minimum for tattoos is $50, body piercings, $40 plus cost of jewelry, and ear piercings $35. And whether a walk-in or appointment, a consultation is given regardless of the complexity of the tattoo or piercing.
Some tattoo clients may get caught up in wanting a too-perfect tattoo, which negates the art of tattooing — the artists' talent — or who want a problematic piercing.
"Those women are not traced out of a magazine," says Currier, pointing to a wall selection of female-themed designs. "Their body parts are a little off, not quite where they should be. But who cares?"
And for those more-than-free spirits who let the artists wing it with a tattoo and trust their talent, Currier describes them as the "best customers," who typically come back.
Others chase a current piercing fad that's unlikely to heal and can cause scarring, which, Currier says, he won't do, such as a back piercing or one right above the buttocks, a request typically from women "who happen to be strippers."
Piercing may conjure up images of things bloody but most piercings necessarily don't bleed much, save for ear and genital, "which tend to bleed a little more," he says.
Yes, Currier on occasion gives ear piercings. But clients have to be at least seven years old. He used to pierce younger ears, but he's encountered pushy parents who guilt trip their kids who weren't thrilled with the initial piercing.
"I felt terrible. It's like you just told your kid people are going to make fun of them because they only have one piercing." Currier recalls.
A script tattoo is a "foot in the door" for many first-timers, Currier says. But he knows a woman who has 200-300 lines of script on her back, like a "page out of a book."
The minimum age for tattoo clients is 16 and for piercing, 14, except for genital piercing, where one must be 18. Piercing is done in a private room, and Currier keeps it pristine with gleaming table tops, furnishings and autoclaved instruments hermetically sealed in tidy drawers.
His piercing jewelry is the "exact same kind of metal that would be in someone's knee replacement or pacemaker ... implant grade stainless and titanium," he says.
And while other piercers may use jewelry with exterior threading, Currier says his is threaded internally. For example, a barbell would have the threading inside one of the balls so the bar itself could slip through the piercing with far less irritation (unlike with an exterior threaded bar) and then attached to the ball.
With the economy slowly making a comeback, some say, body art may seem extravagant. But Currier offers his take.
"It's the kind of business that's pretty well protected even in a financial downturn; people still need to do stuff to make themselves feel better," Currier says. "Women still get their nails done, and people will always want to decorate themselves. Tattooing and piercing are like that, too."
Good Life is located at 752 W. Market Street. Hours: Monday - Thursday, Noon - 9 p.m. Friday - Saturday, Noon - 11 p.m. and Sunday, Noon - 5 p.m. Visit www.goodlifetattoo.com or call 330-374-0100.