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Rising Dragon: The 32-Year Journey from Mom's Place to the Top

Rising Dragon: The 32-Year Journey from Mom's Place to the Top

NYC2 min Read

Tattoodo's Guide to NYC Shops checks in with the historic tattoo parlor in Union Square as they celebrate 32 years in the business.

At its inception, Rising Dragon was nothing more than owner Darren Rosa illegally tattooing out of his mother’s apartment in the mid ’80s. It’s come a long way since then, including a whopping three studio moves, but Rising Dragon’s mission remains the same — solid, quality tattoos from a diverse range of artists.

Now celebrating 32 years in business, Rosa says that his main concern is ensuring that the customer is 100% at ease from the moment they walk through the door. “I like making my studio a cozy home-like environment, it’s more inviting, and you want to stay awhile,” he says. “The main idea is to relax and have fun with us while you get your art. We try not to be too serious about anything else other than doing a professional job.”

Tiger by Ed (via IG-risingdragontattoo) #shops #nyc #guides #RisingDragon #DarrenRosa

Located just off of Union Square, Rising Dragon is home to seven varied and accomplished artists as well as one licensed piercer. While Rosa personally tends to favor Irezumi style work and the occasional fantasy inspired piece, he understands the need for diversity. “I try to cover all the bases between my artists and myself, so we do Japanese, color, realism, black and grey, tribal, bold, and south Pacific styles,” Rosa explains. “The artists are as individual as humans can be, and from a business point of view, it’s actually better for them and the shop if their styles don’t overlap too much, that way a client can get something special no matter who they choose.”

Rising Dragon tends to focus on custom pieces, but Rosa says that over the years, he’s learned a thing or two about the need for an artist on deck. So if you’re a creature of spontaneity, you’re in luck, as the shop also prides itself on its’ accessibility to walk-in customers who have included a few celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Robert DeNiro, and Christina Applegate.


While there is no generalized aesthetic at Rising Dragon, we can say for certain that the quality is the common thread that runs throughout their work. Averaging around 10+ years experience per artist, the collective experience at Rising Dragon is unparalleled. Before he hires any artist, first and foremost Rosa looks for the passion behind their art. “An artist needs to love tattoos and tattooing even when he or she is not worried about paying bills,” he says. “Art should intrigue them all the time. Museums or painting on off hours is a great idea, and helps growth.” If you’re looking to have something covered up, Ed Cuellar is your artist, and if you’re a fan of Japanese inspired work, look no further than Jason.

Japanese Inspired Piece by Darren Rosa (via IG-risingdragontattoo) #japanese #nyc #shops #guides #DarrenRosa #RisingDragon

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The Nitty Gritty Details

Rising Dragon is located in lower Manhattan at 51 W. 14th St. just off of Union Square, and is accessible via the F, M, and L trains. While they do accept credit cards, Rising Dragon offers a special treat to those paying in cash — no sales tax at the expense of the shop. Appointments are preferred, but are not necessary. To set up an appointment, you can call (212)-255-8288 or email You can see Rising Dragon’s full portfolio here.

Alex Wikoff
Written byAlex Wikoff

Staff Writer at Tattoodo. I have a three legged cat that drools.

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