Best of Kent: Tattoo and Piercing Parlors

Tattoo artist Larry Stapano tattooing client Lymrick Cheshire at War Horse Ink on Fri. March 6, 2020. 

Holly Liptak Reporter



The large black sign and low-lit interior give the illusion of an intimidating atmosphere, but inside, the Defiance Tattoos staff are friendly, professional and offer helpful insight. The shop has held its number one spot in “Best of Kent” since 2014.


“All I know is that we try to be cool with everyone who comes in and try to do the best job we can,” owner and piercer Rob Bohn said. “We’ve been here for a long time, so to keep that up, it’s tough, you really have to push yourself.”


With a $20 minimum on tattoos, college students make up the majority of the shop’s customers and it’s has been a downtown staple since opening in 2006. Defiance’s Instagram is frequently updated to keep customers up to date on any specials, recent work or changes to their hours.

“Honestly the customers in Kent are the best,” Bohn said. “The people from the college are awesome, the local people are awesome, everyone’s cool. There are never any problems here so we are very lucky.”

War Horse Ink

Veteran-owned and operated War Horse Ink sits comfortably in the top three tattoo and piercing parlors. The shop prides itself on its relaxed atmosphere and exceptional customer service.

“We’re welcoming to everybody when they come in, we smile and greet them instead of having that old-school stigma of being the scary tattoo place … We’re nice to everybody and we do a really good job,” manager and tattoo artist Joe Rafferty said. 

A total of 16 employees are split between War Horse’s two locations, in Kent and Ravenna, to allow for a wide range of ink and piercing services. Customers can book appointments with both male and female piercers for their comfort.

War Horse Ink’s services include custom tattoos, coverups and body piercings. The employees can offer creative insight and work with customers individually on custom designs.

“We enjoy doing what we do,” Rafferty said. “We all have fun and we feel like we’re growing super-fast because people keep coming back because they like us.”

South Water Studios


A self-proclaimed “small shop with crazy families,” South Water Studios opened in 2014 with a focus in cosmetic tattooing and coverups. With an $80 minimum, the shop specializes in a range of tattoo styles, including expert coverups, portraits and reworks.


“It’s just me, so it’s not crazy in here,” owner and tattoo artist Wendy Koontz said. “I’m able to give everyone the most personable attention I can.”


South Water Studios does not offer piercing procedures. It is stated on their website that appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are accepted when time is available. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., the shop can also book appointments before and after hours if needed.


The South Water Studios’ Instagram, run by Wendy Koontz, acts as the shop’s gallery and is often updated with recent work.

“This is the place your mom would want you to go,” Koontz said.

Holly Liptak covers crisis, recovery, hunger and help. Contact her at [email protected]