The last thing you’d expect to find in the commercial hellscape that is West 36th street in Midtown Manhattan is one of NYC’s most vibrant and friendly tattoo shops, but if you look carefully, you’ll find the door to Red Rocket Tattoo, nestled between a burger joint and a steak house. Once you pass through this narrow aperture, you’ll make your way up to the third floor, passing by walls brimming with original flash art meant to put you in the mood to get a new tattoo. Eventually you’ll find yourself standing before the parlors’ expansive and lively floor, watching a tight-knit team of tattooists crank out high quality body art.
The work that Red Rocket’s staff produces is all top-notch and stylistically diverse. You can get everything from a large-scale piece of Japanese body art to a banger of your favorite Star Wars character, and the best part is that you’ll likely have a lot of laughs as well as some great conversation while you’re at it. “We try our hardest to be accessible to all styles, all cultures, and all peoples,” says Adam Guy Hays. “Our goal is not to be a snooty NYC tattoo shop. We like to treat our customers with a little bit of southern hospitality.”
You'd be hard pressed to find a more exciting and inviting tattoo shop in NYC than Red Rocket Tattoo. The shop's been around for nearly two decades, and since being renamed in 2006, it’s become a second home for a tight-knit team of tattooists as well as devoted clientele. The artists are all professionally trained in the arts and have considerable experience tattooing, many being longtime veterans in the industry.
The spacious parlor floor is one of the most energetic spaces imaginable, with numerous hard-working tattooists creating body art around the clock on most days of the week. The shop is full of cool collectables and astounding visual art, but the best part about the atmosphere is the banter between the staff. Everyone who works there has a great sense of humor, and if you’re a nerd, then you’re in for a real treat, because most of them are hardcore fans of Star Wars, comics, and other geeky stuff.
Beyond the awesome body art that comes out of the shop, Red Rocket takes special attention to give back to the community. They frequently host fun event for good causes. On top of being a bunch of good tattooists, Red Rocket is filled with good people that know the value of paying it forward.
Mike Bellamy is the shop’s founder, and with decades of experience under his belt, he is one of the most versatile tattooists at Red Rocket. He professes everything from good, old-fashioned traditional to wicked work in the Japanese style. If you’re looking for a back-piece or bodysuit, this is your go-to guy at the shop.
Adam Guy Hays is one of the shop’s most versatile artists. He can do work in pretty much every style, but neo-traditional is probably his strongest suit. However, he is most well-known for his Star Wars inspired body art. Throughout his career, Hays has redefined what to expect out of a “pop culture” tattoo. He doesn’t just tattoo Darth Vader, he tattoos Vader in a Pope hat.
Another one of the shop's resident neo-traditional tattooists is Erica Flannes. Her work is both dainty and delightful. If you're after a beautiful tattoo that's full of mirth and wonderment, then she's definitely the artist for you.
If you’re a fan of tried and true traditional, then you’ll likely find Thomas Leyh’s work compelling. He makes bold and bright body art that stays true to its roots while being a bit wild as well. His bangers are some of the best around, especially when they're on the weirder side of things.
Completing the total stylistic package at Red Rocket, Rocky Burley is the shop's black and grey realism extraordinaire. He creates strikingly lifelike illustrations of all sorts of imagery. Basically if it exists, he can render it picture-perfectly. His portraiture is particularly refined.
There are several other quality tattooists who hang their hats at Red Rocket, including Max Shoberg, Derek Martinez, Shannon Ritchie, Greg Rosenfeld, Joshua Nonas, and Chris Murphy, all of whom profess a wide variety of styles, making it one of the most diverse shops in all of NYC.
The Nitty Gritty Details
Red Rocket Tattoo is located in Midtown just northeast of Penn Station and south of New York Public Library’s main branch, and can be reached by a plethora of public transit. The address is 78 W 36th St, New York, NY.
Remember, the entrance is easy to miss, so just make sure to keep an eye out for their sign. If you want to set up an appointment, they prefer that you stop buy in person to speak to the artist of your choosing. Consider calling (212) 736-3001 in advance to make sure that he or she will be there. Should you not live nearby, email them firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information, the artist(s) that you want to work with, and some images for reference. The shop is open Monday-Saturday from 12-8pm and on Sunday from 12-6pm.