The slogan of Smith Street Tattoo (SSTP) might seem overstated at first, but when it comes to good, old-fashioned traditional American tattoos, it honestly is "Brooklyn's finest." While a good number of shops throughout the borough have artists who kick ass at this style, no shop specializes in it quite as devotedly as SSTP. "We are, bottom-line, a street shop, willing and able to service anybody who walks through the door," said Chris McCoy, the shop's floor attendant. "When it comes to traditional tattoos, good luck finding anywhere better."
The tattooists who operate within these flash-lined walls have dedicated their lives to working in this time-tested genre of tattoos, and their art is a testament to their commitment to the craft. Much like the classic designs on which they are based, the tattoos that this team produces embody values such as honor, respect, and integrity.
The notion of being an authentic street shop is what fuels the operations here. They run a hard-working, no-frills enterprise, generally clocking long hours with three appointments per artist, per day and tattooing walk-ins in-between. To put it plainly, they are a prolific team, and they all support each other’s creative endeavors. For instance, every time one of them finishes a piece, they show it off around the floor. You'd be hard pressed to find a more tight-knit team of tattooists than these guys. And speaking of how they help their customers, if you come in with a harebrained idea for a tattoo, these guys will steer you in the right direction. They have faith in the timeless designs that they personalize for each and every client on a daily basis.
Bert Krak is one of the founding figures of SSTP, and traditional tattoos don't get any bolder than his. He works with heavy lines, dark shading, and primary color palettes to create some of the most outspoken body art in town. Krak’s work with large scale pieces is phenomenal, and he is also well known within the industry for his machine building skills.
Steve Boltz — another one of the shop’s founders — is also a masterful tattooist. His work is notable for its vibrant and heavily saturated coloration, you can make his pronounced tattoos out from a mile away. His body art is definitely some of the most spirited in the shop.
Dan Santoro brings an interesting sense of creativity to the team. While most of his work is solidly traditional, he has a looser and more playful approach to the style. It is also notable how much of his portfolio reflects the aesthetic principles of folk art. This combination of styles leads to some truly beautiful work.
Eli Quinters' body of work stands out from the crowd because he imports Chicano motifs into his take on the traditional style. He renders striking imagery like payasa girls, lowriders, and more, using heavy line weights and dense shading as opposed to soft black and grey. It's a very unique look.
The Nitty Gritty Details
Smith Street Tattoo Parlour is located on a cool block in Carroll Gardens, where you can even enjoy the sight of the F train passing by on an elevated platform that's covered in graffiti. The address is 411 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY. To set up an appointment, call them at (718) 643-0463.
Remember, they do lots of walk-ins, if you're nearby, maybe drop in and see if a spot is open. If not, there are great things to do in the neighborhood while you wait on a chair. The guys at the shop recommend getting a bite to eat at Frankie’s Sputino and browsing some music at Black Gold Records or Almost Ready Records. SSTP is open Tuesday-Sunday from 11am-8pm.
Pay them a visit. They are keeping the old-school spirit of American tattooing alive, proudly carrying its bright torch into the new millennium.