Zac Adams was attracted to tattooing by the money, “right out of the gate I watched a shady character sitting in his kitchen pulling the ugliest fattest rail of a line with an old 14 round and a stained up pen tube. When he finished that hail Mary of a tattoo and that guy handed him a crumpled up 50 dollar bill and said he’d be back; I knew I could figure this out for myself.”
“That was almost 17 years ago in an apartment building on the Northwest side of town. Middle of winter, sitting around with barely any furniture, in a dim lit flop house watching a dude boil ink down in a pot on the stove and soak his medical tubes in a ‘sterilization jar,’ which was filled with nothing more than A&D and alcohol. Tattooing every day and person after person coming in and out. Different subject matter and no strict hours. No waking up early and working behind a desk in a suit I can’t fit in, listening to a boss I can’t stand. I was in love. I found the mountain top in a kitchen, smelling like green soap and old cigarettes.”
In the fall of 2007, Adams left the run-down apartment and moved to an actual apprenticeship in a basement. Gunshots and sirens were a daily occurrence, and the opportunity to tattoo in a real shop wasn’t going to last long.
Adams made his way there every night after work and would go to the basement to learn how to tattoo. “My mentor was a savant. He was hard-headed and even harder working. When I arrived on the scene, he was wheelchair ridden, and later rehabbed himself to walk and run again. Old school to the max and by the book.” But after a while, Zac knew he had outgrown that place and was ready to move to a more respectable parlor. He left and wound up at a shop called Sharp Images. He stayed there for a while, worked with other artists, and learned new tricks before heading out west. Zac ended up in the mountains of South Lake Tahoe, California, and started at Electric Pencil. He found out about NEO's new school work, fat giant lines, and popping color. Flash forward a few years and Zac was packing up in the middle of the night and moving himself and his dogs across the country to North Carolina, to meet his best friend and coworker, Drew Beavers.
They tattooed next to each other for a while at a street shop named Cadillac Tattoos. After some time, Drew and Zac left and went in separate directions. Drew went to another shop and Adams packed up and headed back to Ohio. He said, “…wound up living in my sister’s basement for a solid year while I fished around shop to shop, trying to get my feet back on the ground.” Adams was introduced to an old biker who had a spot that he could set up. It became an everyday job: opening and closing, booking appointments, scheduling deliveries, and making shop orders. Adams became the manager without a choice. The owner would come in, take money, and leave without saying a word. After about a year and a half with the same problem and the landlord threatening to shut the place down, Adams asked the landlord if he kept paid up from there on out and got squared away with all the creditors and bill collectors calling if he could take over the lease agreement and change the shop around.
The landlord agreed and on that day, November 4th of 2016, The Inkeeper’s Tattoo Parlor was born, “longest most grueling road ever but completely worth it.”
Adams believes that there are a few things that are most satisfying when running a shop. One would be “…those final minutes of a tattoo when the client is at their breaking point and I’m just hitting the last touches of white lightning. Their soul has left the building and you’ve wiped away all the doubt in the room then they look down and see the finished product. It’s better than any feeling in the world. It’s beyond humbling to think that a person would want my artwork on them forever.” Adams believes running a shop is the same way, seeing a client leave from Drew’s station so happy they book their next two appointments before they’ve left is incredibly satisfying. Watching The Inkeeper’s crew as they progress and grow in their careers; it all really doesn’t get much better.”
Zac would like to see a few more shops open in the next five years or so. The Inkeeper’s already brings a level of tattooing, professionalism, and originality that not many others around them can offer. The shop opened its doors in November of 2016 with just Adams and one room. Adams knew he could grow that one-room parlor into two and with that second room, he could bring another artist onboard. Everything started to fall into place. Now the shop has 7 people and 2 Gatekeepers, and the whole building. “I know my crew will make great shop owners when they choose to venture out. I see some sand and surf in our forecast, something a bit less seasonal where the cold doesn’t shatter your bones. Mountains would be killer too. Lots of irons in the fire, only time will tell the extent of The Inkeeper’s growth.”
There have been a few hard setbacks at the shop. The most trying setback for Zac had to be finances. Maintaining budgets and supply orders, paying for future conventions, bills, rent, machines breaking, and gloves changing are all standard finance issues. Floods happen, windows break, ‘life takes its toll on you, and you bend till you can’t stretch anymore, and somehow you make it back and are stronger than before.” The shop and crew have been through all-day power outages, flooded basements, sunken roofs, ice-cold furnaces, all the way to building code setbacks, and parade route shutdowns. There’s nothing the shop hasn’t been through and made it out on the other side, “we don’t need the mountain moved because we have the strength to climb it.”
TATTOO OF THE DAY | FRIDAY
YOUNGSTOWN TATTOO CLASSIC
TATTOO OF THE DAY | SUNDAY
YOUNGSTOWN TATTOO CLASSIC
LARGE BLACK AND GRAY
PITTSBURGH MEETING OF THE MARKED
BEST MALE SMALL COLOR
CLEVELAND TATTOO CONVENTION
TATTOO OF THE DAY | COLOR
CLEVELAND TATTOO CONVENTION
BEST SMALL BLACK AND GRAY
RESURRECTION ISLAND TATTOO CONVENTION