Rides, Rallies and Events Recap


On Saturday morning, May 15th, more than 50 riders packed into the small parking lot at Clay County Choppers in Claycomo, Missouri to help kick off their grand opening. There were many great specials throughout the store, and Julie, the eye-popping, bikini-clad Easyriders® Magazine April Fox Hunt winner, posed on customers bikes and autographed photos. Julie is scheduled to appear on the cover of Easyriders Magazine this fall, so make sure to watch your newsstands.

Owners, Karen and Dave Foster, and manager, Steve Lauderback welcomed customers as they arrived, while Kristi Organ was busy working the counter. Clay County Choppers has a full staff to support your every need, including a full line of parts, accessories and apparel. They perform state inspections, and if you're looking to sell your bike, they can fix you up by displaying your bike by consignment. Shop manager and fabricator, Chris Tinoco, was on hand during the grand opening to show off some of his recent works of art, and the very talented painter, John Kissinger was also on hand for all your custom painting needs. Mike Piedmont does the polishing, while John Shaeffer handles used parts, which includes the posting and selling of many items on eBay.

Talented artist, Dave Louden, works from a small office in the front of the shop, and while I was visiting him earlier in the week, he was preparing to ship a hand-painted helmet to actor, and fellow rider, Lorenzo Lamas. Apparently, Dave met Lorenzo at a recent comic book convention, and Dave's work impressed Lorenzo so much, that he asked Dave to hand-paint a photo of his fiancée on a helmet and ship it to him. Dave jumped at the chance to rub elbows with a famous celebrity, so now we're wondering if Peter Fonda or Mickey Rourke is next on Dave's list of celebrity art connoisseurs!

The folks at Clay County Choppers go out of their way to support the local motorcycle community, so it came as no surprise that their grand opening included a benefit poker run to help fellow rider, Aaron Followell get back on his feet after a recent motorcycle accident. When Aaron arrived at the shop in the back of a minivan, a large crowd of friends gathered around to wish him well. I managed to pry Aaron away from the crowd just long enough to find out how he was doing and to ask about his accident.

According to Aaron, on Monday morning, April 5th, he was riding his 2001 Harley-Davidson Springer to work, when a truck turned left in front of him near the intersection of I-435 and Parvin Road. Aaron hit his brakes, but didn't have time to do anything other than brace for the impact. Aaron came out of the accident with a broken arm, several cuts and bruises, and his most serious injury was the seven compound fractures to his right leg. After extensive surgery, involving several pins and plates, Aaron is able to get around for short periods of time in a specially-designed wheelchair. He has a metal contraption attached to his leg that looks like something straight out of the movie, Frankenstein, but he's in good spirits and seems to be healing fast. 'I've done several benefit rides to help others, but you never think it's going to be for you,' says Aaron. We wish him the best of luck, and it was apparent that Aaron was very touched by all the support he received from his friends at Clay County Choppers and the surrounding motorcycle community.

The poker run for Aaron, started at Clay County Choppers, with stops at Antoinettes, Back Door Lounge, Our Place, Wabash BBQ, and ended at JC's Sports Bar, where Karen fed more than 75 riders and passengers. DeAnn Johnson had the best hand and rode away with the first place prize; a $50 gift certificate to Clay County Choppers. A Walmart $25 gift certificate went to second place winner, Rand Acker, and T.C. took home third place prizes, which included a T-shirt and a bottle of Wabash BBQ sauce. Shifty Sheaffer had the worst poker hand, which also won him a T-shirt and bottle of Wabash BBQ sauce. Overall, the benefit ride raised more than $1,200 to help ease Aaron's financial suffering.

And speaking of benefit rides, on Saturday, June 19th, Clay County Choppers is sponsoring the Tom Mattivi Memorial Run to help raise money so Tom's family can afford a headstone for his grave. For those of you who didn't know Tom, he was the owner of JC's Sports Bar, which is just down the road from Clay County Choppers. Tom recently passed away after a lengthy illness, and was a huge supporter of the local motorcycle community. Make sure to mark your calendar and come help support Tom and his family.

You'll also want to mark your calendar for Saturday, June 26th, because Clay County Choppers is sponsoring a bikini bike wash. There will be many in-store specials, and the fine folks from Pig Glow will also be on hand to show you how to really make your bike shine!

Clay County Choppers is located at 312 E US Highway 69 in Claycomo, Missouri. Give them a call at 816-454-8406 or drop by Monday through Saturday between the hours of 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. or on Sunday between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Story by Mike Schweder

Photos by Mike Schweder and Bart

Why is F.O.G. Cycles considered by many to be Kansas City's most unique bike shop?

Maybe it's because they are the only bike shop around where you can buy a pre-owned Harley-Davidson, custom built chopper or trike; have your bike serviced; shop for parts, accessories and apparel; then walk through a doorway into a bar to commemorate your purchase over a cold beer while watching the owner play a washboard on stage with the area's finest musicians?

If that doesn't convince you, grab your beer and walk out into the huge open courtyard where you'll find an old caboose that's been transformed into a bandstand. You can plant you butt on one of the many picnic tables for some great people watching or walk through a set of steel gates onto Rochester Street where Frank's famous street parties are held. Speaking of which, according to Brian, the next street party is scheduled for Saturday, July 10th.

If you're there on Friday evening for Hot Rods & Harley's Cruise Night, you'll likely see bikes, and a few hot rods, lined up down the street as far as the eye can see. You'll also want to take advantage of the Friday night specials, including .75 tacos and bucket-of-beer specials. This Friday night event has become so popular; our readers voted Knucklehead's Saloon 'KC's Best Bike Night in 2003.”

F.O.G. may not be the easiest place to find, but its well worth the effort. Anyone who has tried to find F.O.G. Cycles on their own, without first getting some good directions, most likely found themselves riding in circles near some old warehouses or wandering aimlessly up and down the street of a not-so-influential neighborhood. If you're lucky, you might fall in behind some fellow riders who seem to know where they are going. Even if you know where you're going, if you exit off Front Street, there's a good chance you may have to wait on one of the many trains that seem to pull forward and backwards in front of the railroad crossing just to piss you off. I'm told there is a way around the railroad crossing, but I haven't taken the time to figure that one out yet.

So how did this popular biker hangout get started? According to Frank, he owned a body shop and was building and customizing old bikes out of his garage. He found it hard to get parts for his custom bikes, so in 1997, he transformed his hobby into a business and F.O.G. Cycles was born. Midwest Choppers soon followed, as did
Knuckleheads Saloon, which opened its doors a couple years ago. To add another component to Frank’s arsenal, he’s also one of the only Motor Trike dealers in the Midwest. Frank has a great crew working for him, including mechanic, Tom Fine, and Brian 'Youngblood,' who can fix you up with whatever part or accessory you are looking for. Frank sponsors many charitable organizations in Kansas City, including the City Union Mission, Newhouse, Bikers for Babies, and several others.
There are many rumors about what the acronym F.O.G. actually stands for. One rumor is that it stands for 'Friends Only Gathering.' While this may sound nice, knowing Frank, we figured there was probably a better answer. Goldie, our Special Assignment correspondent cornered Frank one evening and got him to give it up. According to Frank, F.O.G. stands for 'F*cking Old Guys.' The next question was obviously, what f*cking old guys? That's when Frank told us the whole story, 'Myself and some riding friends were into hot rod cars. One of the guys had a really ugly car that he entered in all the car shows. Not only was it ugly, it was a money pit and it never won anything. We got together and bought a trophy and one morning at breakfast we presented it to him, signed from the F*cking Old Guys.'
So there you have it! If you've never been to F.O.G. Cycles or Knucklehead's Saloon, it's time to get off your butt, get on your bike, and get on down to 2715 Rochester in Kansas City, MO. F.O.G. Cycles is open Wednesday thru Friday from noon - 8 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
If you need directions, which you will, give Frank and crew a call at (816) 483-6320 or go to F.O.G.'s business info page and click Map/Directions.
By Mike Schweder

Lightning Cycle may be the new kid on the block; however, they are quickly finding their niche in Kansas City's ever expanding motorcycle community. Glen and Jackie Holcomb opened their store in November of 2003, and have been anxiously waiting for the spring riding season so they can shift their business into high gear.
When asked how Lightning Cycle got started, Jackie explained that her and Glen love motorcycles and have always dreamed of opening their own shop. They did their homework, found a high traffic area on North Oak Trafficway with reasonable lease terms, ordered their product, stocked their store, and opened the doors.
When asked how they came up with the name, Lightning Cycle, Jackie credits that to her daughter, Tiffany. 'We were driving down the street trying to think of the perfect name, when Tiffany blurted out 'Lightning Cycle.' Everyone liked the name, and Lightning Cycle was born.'
I asked Jackie what makes Lightning Cycle different from other bike shops, and she said, 'We have great prices, we carry many unique items you won't find in a lot of other stores, we have an awesome custom painter, and we cater to all bikes. We also do everything we can to help customers find hard to get items, such as the 8XL jacket and 10X chaps we're trying to find for a customer. We're also looking for a pair of women's chaps with a 42' inseam.' Glen also told me if a customer doesn't have the tools, time, or know-how to install a part, they can install it for them. To accomplish this, Glen setup a small shop area in the back of the store and has very reasonable shop rates. They install neon lighting, which is becoming very popular, as well as light bars and about anything else you don't feel like tackling on your own.
Chris Cofield does the custom painting for Lightning Cycle, while Jim Cone handles the body prep, finish, and fabrications. Chris has been painting bikes for more than 15 years, and sent me a few samples of his work, which are displayed at the bottom of this article. You also can stop by Lightning Cycle to see more samples of his work.
As much as Glen and Jackie love motorcycles, it came, as no surprise that everyone associated with Lightning Cycle is a true motorcycle enthusiast. Glen rides a 2002 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, Jackie has a 2002 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic trike. Shawn Rhodes, who also works at the shop, rides a beautiful custom painted 2000 Suzuki Marauder, which was painted by Chris. Shawn's bike took first place in the Asian Cruiser class at this year's Kearney Bike show, and photos of his bike are included in the sample photos below (the orange bike with flames and the jester on the rear fender).
Lightning Cycle's grand opening will take place on Saturday, May 22nd, and they have some great promotions going on you won't want to miss. Glen, Jackie and crew are firing up the grill to cook hamburgers and hot dogs and will be featuring lots of great in-store specials. There will also be music and other fun activities going on in the parking lot, so make sure to drop by for some food, fun and fantastic savings!

By Mike Schweder

Photos by Bart

Gasoline Alley is a great one-of-a-kind bar and restaurant if you want to slow down a bit, enjoy a little nostalgia, meet old friends, and make some new ones. It is an easy place to find, located on Main Street in downtown Warsaw, Missouri. The food is excellent, the beer is always cold and the staff works hard to satisfy every customer. The building has plenty of history, which the owner, Mac Vorce is more than willing to share with his customers. His father owned and operated the original Texaco gas station for many decades before retiring, and was an avid collector of items from those days.

Warsaw resides in a rural setting between Lake of the Ozarks and Truman Lake, which is surrounded by nature and great scenic roads that beckon to all motorcycle riders. I enjoy my rides down to Gasoline Alley, as it is only a short 100 miles from Kansas City, and there are numerous routes from which to choose. The Warsaw area has numerous small stores at which to shop, so make sure you come down with empty saddle bags, backpacks or bungee cords. I like riding around the nearby Truman Dam area, as I enjoy being around the water almost as much as I enjoy riding. If you’re riding two up, make sure your partner has the camera ready to shoot some pictures, as you will come upon many tremendous views of the lake and valleys. If you’d like to stay in the Warsaw area for the weekend or longer, the Warsaw Area Chamber of Commerce can suggest some hotels and campgrounds where you can hang your helmet.

After all that riding, stop by Gasoline Alley for something to eat and drink while listening to the jukebox. Set aside some time to play pool, darts or shuffleboard while those power shoppers in your group do a bit more shopping right outside the front door. Spend some time walking around the bar looking at the old gasoline station memorabilia from the 1920s – 1960s. The collection of oil cans, signs and old pump equipment is a vivid reminder of days gone by. In 2001, Mac merged the gasoline station and the old performing arts theatre building, built in 1903, into one establishment. The balcony, which hangs above the bar, is where the blues bands pour out their soul and music to the customers. You don’t have to sit close to the band, as the music reaches throughout the building. Mac has even placed several televisions throughout the bar and restaurant, ensuring everyone a view of the band. Beginning May 1st, there will be live music from 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month, with no cover charge.

A little about your host, Mac Vorce. In his younger days, Mac was a mechanic and had a passion for downhill mountain bike racing. He followed this dream for many years, eventually finding himself in Las Vegas, Nevada where he found himself leading more downhill mountain bikes tours than racing, which is when he decided to move to Kansas City. He eventually grew bored and restless with his life there and moved to Warsaw, where he could spend more time with his father. Once in Warsaw, he saw the opportunity to use the old Texaco gas station his father owned and the empty Theatre next door for a new business venture. Mac purchased the old Theater, made major changes and upgrades to both buildings and included all the old gas station memorabilia his father collected over the past several decades.

The end results of this adventure, was the restoration of a 1950’s Texaco gas station and the creation of Gasoline Alley. He selected the name based on it being an old gas station and the thought that most customers would enter and leave from the alleyway. However, this was not to be the case, as most customers come through the front door, right off Main Street. In mid-May, they will open their outdoor seating area for food and beverage service, which is also designed for people watching and sun worshiping!

Plan your next day or weekend road trip to visit Gasoline Alley, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the scenic two-hour ride from Kansas City or your own home town. You can call ahead for group reservations, and make sure to check out Gasoline Alley's web site for more information, including their great menu items. While you're there, say hi to Mac and don’t forget to tell him Cycle Connections sent you!


Ride Free

Gardner, Kansas may be the last place you’d expect to find one of Kansas City’s finest custom bike builders, but that’s exactly where you’ll find Ultra Craft Customs. Reece and Heath Good have specialized in building unbelievable custom bikes and their talent in sheet metal fabrication is second to none!

As a matter of fact, Craig Frye’s 2003 Ultra Craft Customs Pro Street Chopper made the cover of this month’s issue. The first time I saw this bike was at the Angel Flight: Ride for Life charity ride I attended last September. I was amazed at the level of detail put into this bike and introduced myself while taking several photos of his bike. I told Craig we’d like to feature his bike in our magazine some time and we’re excited to be able to include it in this issue.

I made my way down to Ultra Craft Customs a couple weeks ago and Reece was kind enough to take the time to answer the following questions:

CC: With all these great bikes all around us, which one is yours?

Reece: I recently gave my brother, Heath, my last bike. It is a custom bike I built as a hardtail chopper, with a Shovelhead motor and a swingarm. Heath has completely rebuilt the bike and had it painted a brilliant orange with some fantastic airbrushing and striping applied. The bike will be displayed at the Easyriders Bike Show at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri.

I’m currently building a new custom chopper for myself and not quite sure how it will look when I’m done. Half of my enjoyment in building a bike comes from the freedom to change and create the design outcome as I see necessary.

CC: How long have you been riding?

Reece: I started out on motocross bikes when I was growing up. I’ve been riding road bikes since 1990, with my first bike being a 1953 Triumph chopper.

CC: Let’s talk about your business, as all riders like to personalize their bikes, whether by adding a few custom parts, all the way through one being built from the ground-up. I would like to share with our readers’ information about your custom bike building business and you, as the owner. How would you describe your business?

Reece: It is a small business, with me being the sole proprietor. I opened my business back in 1998 which was located in a smaller shop. As the business grew, I needed more space and moved to this current location.

CC: Why is your business located at this site?

Reece: I live in this community and it always seemed that we ended up riding in this area. So, when I grew out of my old shop, this one seemed to be a natural location.

CC: What are the advantages of this form of business ownership?

Reece: It allows me the freedom to build unique bikes as the client and I design them. A builder needs the ability to make design changes as the bike is being built, as creativity is what makes each bike special. The builder’s added bonus is seeing the excitement in the new owner as he wheels the bike out for the first ride.

CC: How did you get started in this type of business?

Reece: Actually, my passion for speed, noise and customization began while I was in high school. It started as a hobby, and my first experience was with hot rods, eventually turning to motorcycles.

CC: How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business? Any special training or work in the field?

Reece: My mechanical skills came from a two year automotive school and plenty of hands-on experience. My initial building and sheet metal working skills came from working in a chrome shop for ten years. I was fortunate enough to take several courses from Ron Covell, a well-known California sheet metal designer. He travels throughout the U.S., offering group sessions and videos to reinforce his techniques and tips. My mother, who owns her own business, provides me with great advice on the administrative business side.

CC: Approximately how many bikes do you build in an average year?

Reece: Quality is far more important to us than quantity, so we normally build around six complete bikes each year.

CC: Do you do customize people's bikes too?

Reece: Yes. We do all types of fabrication and build lots of our own parts such as handlebars, pipes, and license plate brackets. We customize approximately 20 bikes per year, and do everything from streaching tanks to fabricating flush-mounted tail lights.

CC: Approximately how long does it take to build a custom bike from the ground-up?

Reece: It depends on the bike, however the average time is normally anywhere between four to six months.

CC: What impacts your business the most and why: social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments?

Reece: The biggest, is the high cost of insurance. The cost to insure a building with all the sheet metal machinery, tools, parts and other required equipment is not cheap. Also, each bike being built in the shop does not carry individual insurance, which requires the shop owner to carry a constant high level of coverage.

CC: Who are your competitors?

Reece: I don’t really see other builders as competitors, as each of us have are own style. There are plenty of builders, and I don’t see any of them searching for work. I’m currently building six bikes, all in different stages, with six more waiting to be started.

CC: How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?

Reece: I have advertised in some magazines and had a few of my bikes displayed in motorcycle magazines, such as Easyriders and Hot Rod Bikes. I do have a web site, which we are completely revamping to better display what my business does offer. Much of my business is driven by word of mouth, from owners of the bikes I created.

CC: Where do you see your business in the next year?

Reece: Since my business is expanding, I will move this fall to a new location, which will provide me more room to build and additional space to offer parts and accessories. The new location will be at 307 North 7th Street, Kansas City, Kansas; watch for the grand opening!

CC: Do you have any employees? If so, how many?

Reece: I have one employee, my brother Heath. He is a very important part in the success of my business. He is a great builder in his own right. His current bike will be displayed in the Easyriders Bike Show, along with another bike he spent a lot of time on, now owned by Craig Frye.

CC: Can you describe your customers?

Reece: Most of my customers are ones who want a custom bike that is unique in comparison to other bikes. Most are willing to wait for their bikes to be built, knowing that it is a one of a kind, designed with their input. I do some customization for some riders with their current bikes, as they may wish to have a stretched gas tank or custom fenders.

CC: Why do your customers select you over your competitors?

Reece: The biggest draw to my business is the metal working designs we produce in our shop. This does not mean I have the best designs out of the other builders. It is more of the customers likes and dislikes. If the client sees one or two of your bikes and likes your style, they don’t shop around, they come to you.

CC: What are the biggest issues for running this business?

Reece: Drop-in visitors. It's not a bad thing, as we like to show off our bikes as much as they like to look them over. However, it does take us away from our work, which extends the delivery of the rides we are completing.

CC: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Reece: A custom bike is not for everyone, some like the standard factory rides, with standard parts and a factory warranty. But for the rider who wants their bike to be one of a kind and have some input into the design, then a custom builder is the only answer. Before you buy, look around and talk with the many owners of custom bikes, then pick your builder. Go over your ideas with the builder and see if the four of you are a good match: builder, customer, time and money.


Ride Free

The first time I walked into Cyco Graphics in Claycomo, Missouri I wasn’t sure if I was in a bike shop or a museum. Immediately upon entering the shop, you’re greeted by Biker Frank, the world's tallest Leprechaun, with Humphrey, the leg-humping dog clinging to his leg. You’ve got to see this, because Humphrey actually humps!

The next thing you pass is an antique coin-operated Indian motorcycle kiddie ride, which Bill dropped a quarter in to show me that it still works. On the right side of the hall leading to the showroom is a 1978 Shortster, which is actually a bicycle with a plastic V-twin looking engine, gas tank, and all the simulated parts you’d expect to find on a Harley-Davidson Sportster. According to Bill, Harley-Davidson didn’t find the Shortster nearly as amusing as the creators, so Harley-Davidson sued the manufacturer and forced them to stop using the name.

When you make it to the showroom, you’ll find a few bikes for sale and all the parts, accessories and apparel you’d expect to find in a typical bike shop. Cyco Graphics offers custom fabrication, service work, and inspections, and can provide diamond cutting on jugs and heads. Although they offer all these things, Cyco Graphics is best known for their unbelievable custom paint jobs and incredible airbrush work.

Cyco Graphics owner, Bill Young, has been painting motorcycles for over 50 years. Nine years ago, Bill decided to open his own paint shop in Independence, Missouri near Fort Osage, and five years and hundreds of custom paint jobs later, he decided to open a retail shop in Claycomo, Missouri. Bill continues to use his Independence location to create his works of art, but also does some airbrush work at his Claycomo location. While Bill does all the painting himself, his nephew, Rick “Scooter” Haskins runs the parts and service departments.

As you look around his shop, you’ll see several motorcycle parts, helmets, and even mailboxes that Bill has turned into incredible works of art. Bill also showed me some hand drawings he was working on, which was unbelievable! If Bill ever decides to get out of the painting business, I’m sure he could find a job at Disney. Bill found it funny I mentioned that because his son just happens to be Disney’s Graphic Arts Director in Anaheim, California. I guess great artistic ability runs in the family.

So how good is Bill’s work? At the 2004 Cycles N More Bike Show, 36 of the bikes Bill painted won trophies. There were 17 first place winners, 11 second place winners and 8 third place winners. At the 2004 World of Wheels All American Bike Show, one of Bill’s customers won Best Paint for the incredible paint job Bill did on his 2002 Road King. When you have your bike painted at Cyco Graphics, a photo of you and your bike is added to “The Wall of Shame,” which runs almost the entire length of the store. I’m not quite sure why it’s called The Wall of Shame, because with all these beautiful paint jobs I’m sure each and every customer is proud to have a place on Bill’s wall.

I asked Bill what designs are most popular among his customers and he stated that flames are still one of the most popular choices. I also asked Bill what someone could expect to pay for a paint job and he replied that his paint jobs normally run anywhere between $600 for a basic paint job to over $3,600 for one of his custom masterpieces. When asked how many paint jobs he does in a normal year, he said that last year alone, he did 43 paint jobs. That’s almost one a week, which led to my next question regarding turnaround time. Bill stated that his normal turnaround time was only 10-15 days. Bill said he doesn’t like to keep his customers waiting and he understands that they want to get their bikes back together as quickly as possible.

Along with creating incredible works of art, Bill goes out of his way to support the local motorcycle community. Bill sponsors two junior dirt bike riders who placed first and second in the state of Missouri for 2003, he sponsors a bike night every Tuesday night at JC’s Sports Bar, which is just down the street, and his shop is a stop for many local poker runs and charity rides. When riders stop by Bill’s shop, he offers free drinks and refreshments.

Bill is also donating a Best Paint trophy for the Kearney Bike Show on Sunday, March 28, as well as a Bike Pro self-locking wheel chock valued at $179. Bill will also have a Load Pro™ displayed at the bike show, which turns your truck bed into a self-storing motorcycle transport system. Make sure to look for the Cyco Graphics tent at the Kearney Bike Show where the talented Eric Campbell will offer custom airbrush painting while you wait.

After spending some time with Bill, it is quite apparent that customer service and satisfaction is why he has such a loyal following of satisfied customers. So when you’re ready for your next paint job, stop by Cyco Graphics at 312 NE 69 Highway in Claycomo, Missouri and tell Bill that Mike sent you.

Story and photos by Mike Schweder

When I first set foot inside the door at Icon Tattoo in Blue Springs, Missouri, I was taken back by how modern and clean everything appeared. In one corner of the waiting area you'll find a couple of full-size video games and a full-size statue of Captain Morgan, which just happens to be my drink of choice. Down both walls of the shop you find row after row of neatly arranged tattoo samples.

Denny opened his shop two years ago after working at several well known tattoo studios in Kansas City, including Grimms, Exile and Irezumi Body Art. Denny and Brian are the only tattoo artists in Blue Springs, which keeps them hopping. Denny informed me that tattoo shops have become the fifth fasting growing business in the United States.

Denny took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down for an interview to tell me about Icon Tattoo.

CC: How did you get started in the tattoo business?

Denny: My brother is a tattoo artist and he introduced me to the art?

CC: What makes Icon stand out from other tattoo studios?

Denny: Low production and we specialize in custom tattoos. We do flash as well, but we really enjoy custom work?

CC: What should someone look for when choosing a tattoo artist?

Denny: Anyone who is interested in getting a tattoo should do their homework first. Always ask to see the tattoo artist’s portfolio and make sure they are licensed with the state. In the last six months, the state of Missouri now requires all tattoo artists to have a business license. Also make sure the tattoo artist uses new needles and you see them actually take them out of the sealed package. Believe it or not, there are some tattoo artists who reuse their needles. What most people don’t know is that most tattoo studios are actually cleaner than your doctor's office.

CC: What percent of your customers are men versus women?

Denny: I’d say about 70 percent of our clients are women?

CC: Where and what are the most popular designs for women these days?

Denny: The most popular spot is the lower back. Tribal is real popular as well as flowers. Large traditional tattoos are also back in.

CC: Where do most of your customers come from?

Denny: Most are from here in the Blue Springs area, however we have clients who come from all over the Kansas City area. We just had a lady who flew all the way in from Florida for a tattoo. We occasionally get customer from Oklahoma because they are one of the few remaining states where tattooing is illegal.

CC: Do you tattoo many bikers?

Denny: Yes, I’d say at least 10-15 percent of my customers ride. I’ve tattooed several Freedom of Road Riders members. Word spreads fast.

CC: What changes have you seen in the tattoo industry over the past few years?

Denny: There are more and more artists who are doing tattoos as another form of artistic expression.

CC: How many tattoos does the average person usually get?

Denny: It’s funny because most people start out wanting only one, but before long, they want more and more. It’s kind of addicting.

CC: Are there any body parts you won’t tattoo for a customer?

Denny: I won’t do the neck unless the customer already has a full sleeve because I feel you have to earn it. I also try to discourage younger kids and adults from getting finger tattoos or tattoos on other exposed areas, which I call job stoppers. You wouldn’t believe, even in this day and age, how many people still look down on tattoos.

CC: Do you offer body piercing?

Denny: Yes. We use hollow single use needles, which is much clean and safer than piercing guns you see used in a lot of mall locations. We even started a petition with the state to ban the use of piercing guns.

A few customers came into the shop looking for tattoos so I figured it was time to wrap up the interview so Denny could get back to business. So the next time you want a great tattoo from someone you can trust, stop by Icon Tattoo, which is located at 1412 G SW 7 Highway in Blue Springs, Missouri or give them a call at 816-220-8281 to schedule an appointment.

Story and photos by Mike Schweder

The synopsis for The Illustrated Man with Rod Steiger in a 1969 movie by Rotten Tomatoes says: “In 1933, a man whose body is covered with tattoos searches for the woman who painted him. During his trek, the drifter meets a young man, who envisions three futuristic sci-fi tales, each based on a different tattoo; “The Long Rain,” “The Veldt” and “The Last Night of the World.” Now flash forward 39 years to 1972 at Independence Avenue and Prospect in Kansas City, Missouri. There you will meet Jack Cox, self-taught from the old school, and owner operator of The Illustrated Man Tattoo Studio. Unlike the drifter in the movie, Jack is covered from head to toe in tattoos.

So what’s in a name you ask? How about over thirty years in the business. That in itself is a compliment, but to get a closer insight on how it all started, I talked with Shar Cox, Jack’s wife and Office Administrator. Jack is a little shy when it comes to interviews and photos, but you would never know it after seeing his artistic ability and completed pieces.

Jack got a tattoo first, lost his job second, and then started hanging out at a tattoo shop. Back then, it was something of a secret society to get into the business. He mentored with Art Balch and the rest is history. After 12 years at Independence Avenue and Prospect, he moved to 17th and Main where he remained for five years then on to 31st and Main. At the end of his five year lease there, he began looking for a new studio location.

Shar: We found an old radio station building downtown that was so perfect and with the Power and Light District Redevelopment plans, we almost committed to it. But when the redevelopment plans fell through, we were back to square one looking for a new location. We felt the Lord was leading us to look north of the river so we started checking out places. We were also tired of dealing with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, who was trying to regulate our business and tried to shut us down for nude body painting, which we were not doing. After two lawsuits against the City, ending in our favor, we fought for our rights and the rights of all other tattoo businesses in Kansas City to not be regulated. We had a regular business license, but currently Kansas City is issuing licenses that are regulated and the business owners are not even aware of it. That means the City can come into your business at any time to inspect, look at your accounting records, or whatever they want.

CC: So after the obstacles with the City of Kansas City, Missouri, what challenges did you face in moving to a new location?

Shar: Plenty! Other businesses did not want us in the same shopping center or next door to them. One lady told the landlord that she was concerned that one of our clients might murder her some night! (Shar rolled her eyes to that). We have an excellent business resume, family members in law enforcement and we still had problems.

CC: How long did it take to find a place?

Shar: We kept looking and looking, seven months altogether. Our insurance man told us about a doctor’s office that was available. We met with the owner, Dr. Sportsman, gave him our resume and after calling our pastor and another reference it was a done deal. The building was a perfect set-up because the rooms were already divided. It gave us five tattoo rooms, a kitchen, large lab room and reception area.

CC: Did you buy the building?

Shar: No, we are currently renting, but would like to purchase it when the time is right.

CC: How many artists do you have, and are you one also?

Shar: We have 5 artists: Jack, Ben Alvarez, Spike Palmer, Chris Orr and Creepy Gary. They are all independent contractors with us. I apprenticed about ten years ago and I just don’t have the talent. I am more skilled in the administrative and management areas of the business.
CC: How many tattoos does Jack have?

Shar: He is covered from head to toe and is running out of space.

CC: And you?

Shar: I have one big one, working on a partial body suit.

CC: How did you get started getting tattoos?

Shar: I was working at a doctor’s office on the Plaza back in the eighties and tattoos weren’t exactly the proper thing to do. I was going through a major change in my life and decided to get one on my hip. The second one, I was taking a friend to get one and never dreamed I would get two. I saw a design I loved and started looking at tattooing as an expression of myself.

CC: And is that when you and Jack met?

Shar: Yes, we formed a friendship and he encouraged me to continue so I have been adding to them since 1987 to present.

CC: How long have you been married?

Shar: Sixteen years.

CC: What has been Jack’s most artistic endeavor?

Shar: We had a client that had a mastectomy and Jack tattooed a beautiful angel over the scar. Another one had a breast recreated and Jack added texture to make it more natural looking.

CC: What awards has Jack received?

Shar: He won 2nd place in Black & White at the National Competition in 1986, held in Texas. He also received excellent test results in the Compliance Alliance of Professional Tattooing Course.

CC: Do your artists have art backgrounds or degrees in art?

Shar: Some do. Ben is linear thinking, sees it more mathematically, spatially. Chris has a Geology and English degree and can do anything in design, very creative.

CC: What makes a good tattoo artist?

Shar: It’s not always about art; someone artistic may not make a good tattoo. If you really want to learn, are disciplined enough, are good with people, responsible and apply yourself, you will gain from this business. When Jack started, he would go to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. military base twice a month on paydays. All of the time slots for Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be sold out for the entire weekend and he had four others helping him. They would work until 2 a.m. every night, so you must be very dedicated and disciplined.

CC: What do artists do when they get burned out?

Shar: Good question. It happened with Jack when he moved to Kansas City after tattooing with the same guy for 20 years. He surrounded himself with young artists. His quality of work has improved so much in the past five years because of his renewed enthusiasm and he really loves what he does.

CC: What is your advice to first time customers?

Shar: Decide where you are going to put it. Placement, in the sense a young girl wants one on her forearm that says 'Bitch.’ I try to talk her out of it. We had a guy who wanted 'Armed & Dangerous’ on his arms, so we gave him a scenario of being pulled over by a cop and how that might be perceived.

CC: Do you have a booth at the bike shows?

Shar: Not anymore. The people putting them on don’t require other tattoo vendors to be licensed and we don’t want to be associated with people who tattoo out of their basement. Not only are we licensed with the City of Gladstone, Missouri, but also the State of Missouri, the UMKC School of Dentistry tests our autoclave machines and keeps them up to par, and we have a bio-hazard waste container picked up on a routine basis. Hygiene is very important.

CC: What is the risk of infection?

Shar: After the customer leaves our door, the skin breaths. It’s like an open screen door, it lets stuff on the outside come in for a warm spot which is the open wound, and dirt gets in the area. We give verbal and written after care instructions. Usually during and after getting a tattoo their adrenalin is so high they don’t always hear what you are telling them. But we always tell them to call with any dumb questions!

CC: What is the average healing time?

Shar: Two weeks on the surface and four to six weeks internally.

CC: Is the customer always right when there is a complaint?

Shar: Sometimes they are right, but if they don’t follow our after care instructions, like staying out of the sun or water, the color comes out. Education is very important and we try to inform all our customers on proper care. We don’t care whose fault it is, if the customer don’t look good, we don’t look good.

CC: At what price do your tattoos start?

Shar: Thirty dollars and up. We are different from other studios, all of our tattoo samples have the price displayed next to them. Our most expensive is between $200 and $300. Cost is determined by size, design, detail and time.

CC: Do you do facial or permanent cosmetics?

Shar: No, the ink is totally different and so is working with the facial skin. We have a lady in Ohio who comes to Kansas City a couple times a year. We keep a list of customers who are interested or we give her number directly to them. You must understand on a nurse’s level about the body and the skin to be successful in this business.

CC: What changes have you seen over the years?

Shar: In the 70’s, we saw bikers and girls getting tattooed on their private parts. In the 80’s, we had a big boom tattooing African Americans. In the 90’s, there were more professionals, women over 40, and men getting hunting and Harley-Davidson tattoos. In 2000, everybody is getting a tattoo! Corrective tattooing has increased 50 percent in the past seven years.

CC: Are there any new procedures for tattoo removal?

Shar: Yes, it’s called Palomar Oyag5 Laser. It is the most advanced laser with no bleeding or damage. It takes approximately three to eight treatments and they can usually achieve 90 to 100 percent removal of a tattoo.

CC: What are the most popular designs?

Shar: Women started out with small roses and butterflies, but not anymore. They are getting tribal designs on their lower back, then the whole back and then sleeved out! These are girls in their 20’s & 30’s. Men are getting more testosterone pieces; bear claws, lions, wolves and rottweilers; not evil just aggressive designs. Religious designs are also getting very popular. We go to conventions all over the U.S. and design sells. Hair, clothing and tattoos all come from the West Coast and migrate to the Midwest. Tribal is still the most requested.

CC: Why the sudden popularity in religious pieces?

Shar: I think people are choosing them to celebrate spiritually. One client had his family crest put on his back. Another client had stars and banners on his chest with the wording, 'suffer not the little children who come unto me.’

CC: Wow! He must have been a big man!

Shar: Yes, 400 pounds! He and his wife had twin babies and one did not survive so he also had both names tattooed on, celebrating the blessing of life.

CC: You seem to project a strong religious philosophy in your business. Can you share how that came about?

Shar: We don’t see it as religious; it’s more of a living relationship with Jesus. It’s the ability, wisdom and energy to reach out to others. When Jack and I got married we were highly involved in chemicals, topless bars and porno and it got to the point where I just couldn’t hang anymore with that lifestyle. I needed to get straight. We faced some difficult times. We had a baby and I was alone a lot so I went to a small church where I attended Sunday school classes for a year and a half. Jack finally got straight and since it was the fourth marriage for both of us, we knew we could make it this time.

CC: What is the most satisfying aspect of this business?

Shar: Our biggest compliment is getting referrals from our customers, helping clients change their lives and the ability to share our life to help them.

CC: Why is your studio special?

Shar: The level of help, education and professionalism of our entire staff, our continued education in tattooing, our bio-hazard use and our resources for designs. There is a peace in our shop, people feel comfortable. Because we spend so much time here, cleanliness is imminent throughout. We also involve ourselves in every person who walks in our door.

CC: What forms of advertising do you do?

Shar: Word of mouth, satisfied customers and we advertise in the yellow pages. Rates have sky-rocketed over the years. Our first ads were $40, now they are $170.

I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Jennifer Angelo who is 28 years old and came to the Illustrated Man a year and a half ago. She went through the flash designs, selected one and for the next two and a half months had her entire back tattooed in all color (see photo below). At times she could sit for three hours, other times only thirty minutes. Ben Alvarez was her artist and the use of color, shading and technique are very impressive in her pixie/fair princess design. I asked Jennifer what’s next and she replied, “I will probably fill in around my shoulders, haven’t really decided yet.” When I asked her if she would come back to The Illustrated Man, she said, “Most definitely.”

Tony Myers had his first tattoo in 1986. I asked him why he chose The Illustrated Man. “I heard about them from someone else.” And what design did he choose? “Since I’m a Taurus, I chose a bull.” Since it has been so long, Tony could not remember the name of the artist, but he was happy with the outcome.

Not all tattoo artists are created equal. Tattooing is not about tracing stencils anymore, it’s about creative art and passion. There’s a lot of money that has to be invested in running a successful, safe, clean, sterile and professional tattoo business. The Illustrated Man seems to be the king of the hill. Folks, you can’t beat word of mouth and satisfied customers when choosing a place. Stop by and meet Shar, Jack and their team of artists. Their reputation stands alone and is second to none with the tattoo artists that are here today. Be sure and tell them you read their review in Cycle Connections On-Line Motorcycle Magazine!

Story and photos by Goldie Arnold
Photo of Jennifer Angelo provided by Jennifer

Congratulations to Knucklehead’s Saloon on being voted Best Bike Night location in Kansas City for 2003! Where else can you go to shop for motor clothes, buy parts, get your bike serviced, listen to blues, eat, drink, visit with other bikers and party like a rock star? Knucklehead's Saloon and F.O.G. Cycles of course. F.O.G. is no ordinary motorcycle bike shop. It may be out of the way and out of plain sight, but it is never out of your mind once you’ve been there.

It was a Friday night and there was a good crowd congregated inside the Saloon, the full-throttle zydeko tunes of Billy Ebling and His Late for Dinner band was jammin' and we were there stuffing ourselves with tacos. Cycle Connections Editor-in-Chief, Mike Schweder and V.P. of Marketing, Greg Bartley presented Frank Hicks, owner/operator, with a plaque for this special recognition. I draped a pair of motorcycle beads around Frank’s neck and asked him if he was surprised. 'Yes, this is really a surprise, and I really appreciate it.”

Frank is, humble, courteous and a successful businessman who doesn't sit still for very long. He greets his customers by name and takes pride in the customer service he offers.

CC: How did F.O.G. get started?

Frank: I owned a body shop and was working on old bikes out of a garage. It was hard to get parts for custom bikes and it was time to get the eight bikes out of my garage. I opened it as a hobby, for enthusiasts for the sport of riding.

CC: What does F.O.G. stand for?

Frank: F**king Old Guys.

CC: How did you come up with that?

Frank: Myself and some riding friends were into hot rod cars. One of the guys had a really ugly car that he entered in all the car shows. Not only was it ugly, it was a money pit and it never won anything. We got together and bought a trophy and one morning at breakfast we presented it to him, signed from F**king Old Guys.

CC: How long have you been in business?

Frank: Seven years, all at this location.

CC: How many employees do you have?

Frank: Three at F.O.G. and four at Knuckleheads.

CC: How many of them ride?

Frank: All of them.

CC: Who rides the motorcycle in your television commercials? Everyone thinks he looks like Hank Williams, Jr.

Frank: That's Rick McQuinlin, our bartender’s husband.

CC: How is F.O.G. different from other bike shops?

Frank: I think we are more personal with our customers.

CC: What steps do you take to correct problems or issues with dissatisfied customers?

Frank: First of all we talk with them to find out the whole story and then we try to reason with them and correct the problem.

CC: What type of training does your mechanic have?

Frank: He is certified with MMI, and was previously with Blue Springs Harley-Davidson for four years.

CC: Is there a lot of employee turnover in this business?

Frank: Not really, I have only had three employees since starting the business.

CC: Describe your 'perfect employee.'

Frank: There isn't one, but it's important they have a good attitude.

CC: What employee incentives do you offer to keep them motivated?

Frank: They work on salary plus commission and they are included in all the events or rides we sponsor and attend. Sometimes they do have to work the street parties.

CC: Besides bike service, what other services do you offer customers?

Frank: Body work, custom paint, frame stretching, custom build jobs, detailing and re-sale bikes.

CC: Why did you get out of the trailer rental business?

Frank: It was a hassle. They would come back damaged and abused, we would fix them and it would happen again. It just wasn't worth it. We also had customers who wanted to borrow them, versus renting. We sold most of our inventory, still have four left if anyone is looking for one.

CC: Where do you display your re-sale bikes since opening Knucklehead's?

Frank: Across the street, or we may put them next door this spring. They are also on our web site for viewing.

CC: Who does the buying for your motor clothes?

Frank: My wife, Mary and Gwen and I.

CC: What is the biggest change you have seen in the past five years in motorcycling?

Frank: Different types of people who ride. The value of bikes. The used market has become real soft because of the zero down on financing. Harley's are still holding their value, but not like they used to. As long as the supply and demand continues Harley-Davidson will stay on the upswing.

CC: How do you keep customer retention?

Frank: Just being personal and friendly to people. We listen to them and like to visit, sometimes too much!

CC: What do you ride and how often do you get out?

Frank: I have a V-Rod. We go to Sturgis, Daytona, and Las Vegas Bike Week annually. This year we are going to Myrtle Beach too.

CC: Tell me about your Members Only Club.

Frank: It was started to give the customers a sense of belonging. The fee was nominal, $15 and they would get discounts on their purchases. At our peak we had 697 members. I then went to a higher membership fee of $100 for a Gold VIP card. They still received store discounts plus the first Saturday of the month they could purchase any clothing item at regular price and get the second of equal value for 25 percent off. They also received two free admittances to all the street parties and all other events planned for that year. They could park inside the fence VIP parking. However, we are going to discontinue the club. It's been a hard year for motorcycling; part sales are down 60 percent.

CC: That's a huge percentage, what has attributed to the decline?

Frank: A lot of unemployed people selling their bikes. The toys are the first to go. It’s just the economy in general.

CC: Your street parties are packed with riders from all over Kansas and Missouri, what has changed the most since your first one?

Frank: Well, we couldn't serve beer. Then we had to charge for the food in order for anyone to get a drink. It took us a couple of years to finally get a liquor license, it was really hard. We have tried to fine tune the parties every year. We used to keep the street open and the last couple we have blocked it off. A lot of people didn't like that so we are going to open them back up again. They used to get a little crazy with the burnouts and all, but we have not had any fights or arrests. We do hire off-duty security, but all in all it's a fun time.

CC: Being in a residential neighborhood, do any of them complain about the constant roar of bikes or your parties with bands?

Frank: No, they really don't. Some even walk up for the street parties, while others sit on their front porch and watch the parade of bikes coming in. It's entertaining for them I think.

CC: You were the first to offer the lottery/raffle to win a new bike. Was that profitable or more promotional?

Frank: The first year we made a little money, the second year it was more promotional. Not sure if we are going to do it for a third time. Maybe, maybe not.

CC: How has the response been to your television ads?

Frank: It's given us a lot of exposure, but we haven't really seen it come back to us in business yet.

CC: What other avenues of advertising do you use?

Frank: Radio, flyers, e-mail, web site, magazines and mostly word of mouth.

CC: Do you participate in the bike shows?

Frank: Not as a vendor, we put our bikes in to show, but they are not entered for judging or competition.

CC: What types of specials or discounts do you give to bikers?

Frank: We have lots of sales and this year instead of doing the membership club, we are going to rebate you a percentage of cash on your purchases.

CC: What percentage of your business are with women riders?

Frank: I'd say 15 to 20 percent.

CC: Do you sponsor any charity events?

Frank: Yes. The City Union Mission, Newhouse, Biker's for Babies and several others.

CC: Do you think some of the entry fees are getting out of hand?

Frank: I think some are, $35 is high, plus when you have a passenger. I think the fees should be less, then have something at the end of the ride to generate more money. I had an idea that if local people had arts or crafts, they could donate, people could buy them, or have an auction.

CC: It seems like you own the whole block of Rochester. Do you?

Frank: No, it's the right away for the railroad. We still have to get permits from the City when we have our parties or close the street down.

CC: How did Knucklehead's Saloon get started?

Frank: Two years ago we set it up to do the catering for the street parties.

CC: Where did you get the Caboose?

Frank: It came from Victoria Street Station down in the River Quey. I knew the owner so I offered to buy it and he shot me an astronomical price and I thought that was the end to it. A couple weeks later, it closed. I called him again and he said he wouldn't sell it to me, but he would loan it. I asked him for how long and he said, 'as long as I'm alive.’ So that's how we got it. We named it, The Ronnie Ralston Music Depot, dedicated to my great friend, Ronnie, a musician and fellow riding buddy.

CC: What kind of food do you serve?

Frank: Tacos, appetizers, lucky dogs (jumbo chili dogs) and Texas tators. They are like blooming onions, but are thinly spiraled potatoes.

CC: Are you open for lunch?

Frank: No, but we are open on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

CC: When did you start having entertainment?

Frank: It started out with Karoke, then went into bands.

CC: How do you select your bands?

Frank: We go to different clubs and listen to them and also see what kind of following they have.

CC: You are quite the washboard player, any plans of running off with a band and giving up the motorcycle life?

Frank: No. But we may try and get some bluegrass jams going in here.

CC: Who comes up with all the ideas? Do you have an event planner?

Frank: I'm it!

CC: What fun events do you have planned for 2004?

Frank: Fat Tuesday, February 24th at 8 p.m. we are on the downtown route for the Kansas City Blues Society Club Crawl. Levee Town and Lee McBee will be the bands.

April 9th will be the kick-off to our Hot Rods and Harley cruise nights. We are going to try and combine the two this year. Everyone in town is offering a bike night regardless if any bikes ever come there. We may also make the cruise nights a two-day event and have a bike show on Saturday. We have a lot of out-of-towners who come in for the street parties and we have a 16-passenger van so we can pick them up at their hotel and bring them down for a fun weekend.

Also we plan on doing a lot more rides this year.

CC: Where do you see F.O.G. in three to five years?

Frank: I want to put a deck on top of the building that looks down over the patio, create more coverage from the sun. I think we will have a bigger service department, smaller motor clothes area and I would like to add an on-line order center for parts where the customer will come in, find the part they need, pay for it and have it delivered to their home. I'd also like to put a museum upstairs about motorcycling. We would also like to start offering Motorcycle Safety classes for beginners and advanced riders.

CC: What is the hardest part to not only running F.O.G, but the three other businesses, Mid City Body Shop, Express Channels Sign Shop, and Knucklhead’s Saloon?

Frank: Being in four places at one time.

CC: Is it hard for you to delegate the work load?

Frank: Yes. Mary helps me a lot and all the employees are great. I just end up doing too much myself.

CC: If you had it to do over again, what would you do different?

Frank: Have more people running the business so I have more time to ride. I would run it more like a business from the start versus a hobby. My New Years Resolution is to make a profit with F.O.G. from now on. No more doing this as a hobby, it's a business and if we can't make it, we won't be here. We may have to raise some prices. Our beer just went to $2.50 and we may charge a cover for the bands.

CC: You are getting more into choppers, what's the latest you have done?

Frank: We designed a chopper trike for one of our customers. It's really something to see. And we are working on a custom bike for a girl in Florida who is part of the National Biker Roundup.

CC: What do you want the biking community to know about F.O.G.?

Frank: It's hard to find, but it's worth it. We want them to be happy they came here, for whatever reason that brought them here, whether its parts, service or Knucklehead's. We want you to know us.

Their television ad says it all, 'F.O.G. is a destination, where the search begins for adventure.’ So saddle up all you dudes and divas and head on down to the playground for bikers; a truly unique experience in motorcycles. It is also the most diversified bike shop in the Midwest, and be sure and tell them you read their review in Cycle Connections On-Line Motorcycle Magazine!

Here’s what voices from the streets of Rochester are saying about F.O.G. Cycles and Knucklehead’s Saloon:

Biker Bud: I've been coming down here for seven years two to three times a week to have a beer and because I love Frank! I like it because it's out of the way.

Ronnie Ralston: I come here because it's fun, totally different crowd all the time, a lot of nice people and because Frank is a great guy. My band has played down here a lot and we also played for Frank's New Years Eve party this year.

Diane Moore: Last week it was wall to wall people, dancing on the tables and then this week it's more of a laid back crowd. Maybe people are still getting over the holidays. It's a fun place and everyone is so nice.

Charlie Atkins: I'm a retired Kansas City, Missouri fireman and we started out cooking barbeque for Frank's street parties. Been coming here since he opened and I buy most of my parts from here.

Story by Goldie Arnold

Photos by Goldie Arnold & Mike Schweder

When you walk down the steps into Kingpin Tattoos you know you’re in a top notch shop. To the right is a comfortable waiting area, and straight ahead is a room filled with rack after rack of tattoos that are neatly arranged in swinging poster frames so you can easily flip through the endless selection to find the perfect one.

In yet another room is the main tattooing area, which reminds me of a quaint old-fashioned barber shop with a row of chairs facing a huge mirror that runs the entire length of the room. Each work station is spotless, awaiting the next customer to walk through the door. You can tell this area is setup to do business, and with seven tattoo artists on staff, they do a lot of business! Owner, John Monk says, “Weekends around here are crazy. We often have every chair filled and customers in the waiting area.” John is the tattooing kingpin and his brother Josh handles the body piercing side of the business.

While I was talking with John and Josh, a first time customer popped in while on his lunch hour for three quick piercings. Just like you’d stop by a convenience store for a soda, chips and candy bar, before I’d finished my conversation with John, the customer was on his way back to work with three new holes in his head. I asked Josh what body part was the most popular area to get pierced these days, and he said, “The tongue is real popular, as well as the eyebrows and naval.”

Before the next customer could arrive, I figured I’d better get my questions asked before it got busy.

CC: How long have you been in business?

John: I’ve been in the tattoo business about 11 years.

CC: Have you always been at this location?

John: We’ve been here almost 10 years, and before that, I worked at another tattoo shop.

CC: How did you get started in the tattoo business?

John: My dad was a tattoo artist and he got me interested.

CC: What makes Kingpin Tattooing & Piercing stand out from your competition?

John: I don’t feel we really have any direct competition because the majority of our clients are loyal repeat customers and referrals. I submitted a photo of my work to Tattoo magazine a while back and they put it on the cover of their magazine. Since then, I’ve had customers fly in from Arizona, California, Illinois, Nebraska, and even Alaska!

CC: Wow! That’s impressive. Is there any one customer you’ve spent the most hours tattooing?

John: Yes. I have one client who is working on a complete body suit and I also have several clients who have a full sleeve (see photo below).

CC: What should someone look for when choosing a tattoo artist?

John: Check out the artist’s portfolio and ask to see some of their work.

CC: Are the majority of your customers men or women?

John: I’d say about 70% are women.

CC: Really? On what part of their bodies are all these women getting tattooed?

John: Their “girlie area” is the most popular spot.

CC: Their girlie area? And where would that be…do tell?

John: It’s their lower back.

CC: Damn! I was hoping for something a little more erotic. Oh well…so what type of tattoos are they getting on their girlie area?

John: Tribal designs are real popular, and so are bugs and flowers.

CC: Do you tattoo many bikers?

John: Yes, quite a few. I have tattooed several members of the club I belong to, as well as members of other motorcycle clubs.

CC: What do you ride?

John: I ride a custom built chopper with a 113 cubic inch S&S engine. Possum, who’s now building bikes at Black Diamond Choppers in Shawnee, Kansas built it from the frame up, and Scott Thomas with KC Creations did the painting (see photo below).

Awesome! A beautiful bike, a successful business, what more could you ask for? If you’re looking for a great tattoo by a well respected and nationally recognized tattoo artist, drop by Kingpin Tattooing & Piercing at 3618 S. Noland Road in Independence, Missouri and tell John and his crew that Mike with Cycle Connections sent you.

Story & Photos by Mike Schweder