Best tattoo and piercing parlor


Kait Murray

The entrance to Defiance Tattoos, located at 163 E. Main St.

Jillian Flack, Reporter

FIRST: Defiance Tattoos

A tattoo studio in Defiance Tattoos, located at 163 E. Main St. (Kait Murray)

Whether coming in for a sleeve, a first-time tattoo, a cartilage piercing or a new piece of jewelry, Defiance offers it all.  

Owner Rob Bohn, who said he primarily does piercings, opened Defiance in 2006. The business offers a patient staff and a number of artists who can help clients get their perfect tattoo.

Bohn previously worked at another tattoo shop named Hooligans, which Defiance later replaced. When it closed, Bohn and his business partner opened this shop, and it has been successful ever since, even after his partner left about five years ago. 

“The sky’s the limit as far as designs or applications of tattoos and piercings,” Bohn said. “As long as the customer gets what they want and they’re happy with the piercing, I’m happy.”

Defiance takes walk-in customers for smaller tattoos on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The business requires appointments for any tattoo larger than a person’s palm. Piercings do not require an appointment and are first come first serve every day. 

“To me, I always say the same thing,” Bohn said. “If your customers are happy, the business is going to do good. It’s that simple. That’s it; people come in, make sure they have a good day. And it’ll just keep going.”

Bohn manages several different businesses and said Defiance is his favorite since his clientele is often in a good mood, making it a more fun environment for him to manage. He spends most of his days doing piercings and ensuring business runs smoothly, which sometimes means handling customers and doing paperwork.

“We donate to a lot of different organizations,” Bohn said. “Even people that don’t come to the shop, when there will be fundraisers, always try to help out. Because if it wasn’t for the people from the college, from the community, you know, we don’t have a business. So we really appreciate the people that come in every day.”

Christine Zwick, a tattoo artist who manages at Defiance, has held her position for seven years. She does around five to 16 tattoos each day, and around 50 or more a week in total.

“So a lot of times, whenever people bring me in examples [for what they want their tattoo to be], it’s kind of like, my job to make it better,” Zwick said. To give them the best version of whatever they want and of course, that requires their input as well because that doesn’t mean that whatever I think is best.”

Zwick became a tattoo artist “by a chain of events of just serendipitous coincidence.” She was very artistic from a young age, and Zwick was able to find a job she loved. No day is the same for her based on the customers who walk through the door and their requests. 

“You never know what your day is gonna look like, it could be people that are getting all different types of tattoos with all different types of meanings,” Zwick said. 

Despite the challenges that may arise from this type of work, the staff at Defiance is determined to make their work of utmost quality while also keeping their customers happy and comfortable. 

“The biggest thing for us is customer service, because that’s a lot of our job,” Zwick said. “Taking care of people and really helping provide a service for something that’s very intimate to most people.”

Freshman fashion merchandising major Haley Ferguson has gotten three tattoos from Defiance. She said she is very impressed by the staff’s work and enjoys what they do, receiving lettering tattoos along with different drawings. 

“I think their prices are good,” Ferguson said. “I think the artists are really good too.”

Interested customers can look at various artwork on Defiance’s Instagram page, @defiancetattoos. While visiting the page, people can also find information on how to get a tattoo or piercing and get answers to questions they may have. 

“At the end of the day, we just got to do the job,” Bohn said. “So no matter what, win, lose or draw, I’m gonna go on today and do the best job I can. Hopefully people appreciate the hard work we’re doing in ways that we appreciate the people that come in every day.”

Customers can use pictures or drawings as inspiration for their tattoos. They can also allow the tattoo artist to stylize or specialize the design the way they think will best fit. 

Defiance encourages people with a growing interest in tattoos to get whatever they wish to have done. 

“I think it’s just a way for them to express something without having to say words in a way,” Zwick said. 

SECOND: War Horse Ink

War Horse Ink was nominated for the top three Best Tattoo/Piercing shops. War Horse Ink is located at 107 E. Summit St. (Emma Van Winkle)


When it comes to getting tattoos or piercings, getting them done in welcoming surroundings can drastically improve the quality of the entire experience, which according to War Horse’s staff, is exactly what its location strives for. 

Located at 107 E. Summit St. and offering a variety of choices for piercings and tattoos, War Horse is a popular tattoo shop for students.

With over 20 tattoo artists and several piercers throughout its three locations, in Kent, Ravenna and Streetsboro, the War Horse staff tends to stay busy.

“It’s pretty busy most of the time, but I love it with all my heart,” said Joe Rafferty, a manager and tattoo artist at War Horse. ”It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done.” 

War Horse was established in 2016, and ever since, the business has worked to bring beauty and individuality into the community with each tattoo and piercing.

“[Tattoos are] showing everybody what you’re into, showing everybody like what your personality is, and like little stories and things like that about yourself. So it’s just a way to make yourself an individual instead of being just like everybody else,” Rafferty said.

War Horse offers a wide variety of tattoos. People can tell the artists their ideas or show them a picture and the artist can use it for inspiration. Along with the quality results of the tattoos, this has made War Horse a popular choice among students.

“We have tried to work with the community and all three of the cities that we have shops right now and just kind of give back,” Rafferty said. “We tried to make a really comfortable environment for everybody to come in no matter who you are.”

The sign outside South Water Studios, located at 850 S Water St. (Janson McNair)

THIRD: South Water Studios

South Water Studios pays attention to keeping materials clean and customers safe. Located at 850 S. Water St., students can access this tattoo shop and look for their meticulous designs. 

South Water Studios has two tattoo artists, Wendi Koontz, who owns the shop, and Audrey Henry. Both of them have been tattooing for many years. Koontz has over 15 years of experience. 

“People bring in how they want to communicate [through their tattoo], and we have to figure out how to make it a picture,” Koontz said. “It’s like a puzzle.”

Being the only two artists in the shop, Koontz and Henry have their customers book appointments far in advance. They only accept walk-ins when the shop is not busy. In addition, Koontz and Henry are both single mothers and work to manage a balance between work and home life.

“We kind of work around our kids’ schedules so it’s pretty much every day is a little different,” Koontz said. “We kind of just have to make it work our own way.”

South Water Studios opened around January 2014. After moving to Kent from New York, Koontz decided she wanted to open her own tattoo shop. In addition to specializing in tattoo art, she also can do permanent makeup.

For Koontz, being nominated for Best of Kent is an achievement for her and her business.

“It’s kind of surprising because it’s literally just two people and because we’re post single moms, like, we don’t really work on weekends very much and evenings are tough,” Koontz said. “So it’s just the fact that there’s enough people. It’s just one of the things where we don’t we don’t operate like a typical traditional tattoo shop at all and people are still noticing so that’s pretty awesome.”

Jillian Flack is a reporter. Contact her a [email protected]