By: Tula Mason
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Have you ever secretly entertained the notion of getting a tattoo? Well I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. So many of us never get past the fear of what other people will think and actually do it. Everyone has heard the unkind (even rude) remarks of those who find them to be distasteful or assume that people with tattoos are hooligans and troublemakers. If this isn’t enough, the hesitation may be a result of the usual loud, tasteless environment or general unsanitary conditions that can frequently be found in these establishments.
Whatever the reason, once you set foot into 100 Proof Tattoo; your mind will be forever changed. This beautiful shop is truly a feast for the senses! Established in February of 2012, owner D.J. Knotts had a vision of providing the residents of Berkeley County with a comfortable, safe place to express themselves through the art of tattoos. Don’t let his love of inked body art fool you, he is a businessman through and through. He started his first business Appalachian Heating & Cooling over 12 years ago. D.J. stated it survived a divorce and the recession, with such great success that he then bought a construction company several years later. He continued to make sound business decisions and went on to purchase two more companies with in the past five years not counting 100 Proof Tattoo. Now having a total of five businesses, he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, with plans to open a pawnshop as well as an affordable high-end hair salon 2017.
“I’m not scared of being tired” was what D.J. had to say about all of the hard work he has done over the years. I must say that his matter of fact yet easy going demeanor during my time spent with him told me that this is the truth. He is truly a pleasure to know and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and his many accomplishments.
In order for you to appreciate the position in life that he enjoys today, you must first understand the challenges he faced as a child.
He grew up in an extremely poor family in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia, who didn’t even have running water in their home until he was 13 years old. His father passed away when D.J. was just 10 years old and as a result of losing her husband his mother spiraled into a deep depression for the next several years. This in essence left him to fend for himself and finally at the age of 17 he went out on his own.
He worked hard everyday to make it out in the world but at the age of 20 found himself in prison for the next 3 years. As it would happen, his girlfriend at the time was 2 months pregnant when he was incarcerated, but, would bring his son to visit as often as possible. In fact, he stated that after holding him for the first time, his entire outlook on life changed dramatically. So, as you can see, this was the major turning point for him in every way imaginable. After his release, he remained on both probation as well as parole, during which time he worked hard and stayed on the straight and narrow, which obviously paid off in a big way. Being a father to his two sons is the joy of his life.
So this brings us to 100 Proof Tattoo, which is a business near and dear to his heart. D.J. and his general manager Jamie Davis, who has worked along side him and been his close friend for the past 8 years, decided it was time to bring a proper tattoo shop to Berkeley County.
That is to say, both being lovers of inked body art; they felt that the community deserved a clean, safe, comfortable environment to serve their needs. Honestly, not being certain of the reception of such a shop, the two really took a gamble with this venture. Much to everyone’s surprise, including their own however, the business really took off. Starting with just two tattooists on 301 Winchester Ave, the first year, their popularity grew to the point where this number doubled to four by the years end in order to keep up with the publics demand. The business continued to grow and in only it’s second year, the number of tattoo artists grew to six and a body piercer was brought on board. By the end of the third year that number grew to an impressive nine tattooists.
Due to space limitations, the shop was moved to its current location on 1478 Winchester Ave. Martinsburg. Being the “undocumented” largest tattoo shop in the country in terms of square footage, this place is truly something to see. Every thing about it screams of comfort, class, and style. It is no exaggeration to say that this establishment is truly a feast for the senses. Although not even the most detailed of descriptions can possibly do it justice, here it goes.
The moment you first step foot inside you are immediately struck by the sheer beauty and size of it that captures the eye, combined with the most delightful aroma that fills your nose in the most pleasant of ways, happily capturing the attention of your olfactory. Soon after your ears perk up to the relaxing, welcome sounds of oldies music, your senses go into a wonderful state of overdrive. Now that you are feeling just like a kid in a candy store, the adventure beings. Unlike most tattoo shops where a quick, unenthusiastic “Can I Help You” from a gruff tattooist looking up from his work usually meets patrons, rather you are greeted by the friendly, smiling face of the person working the front desk. I guarantee that you won’t find any member of the staff to have a shortage of tattoo’s or piercings, but nor will you find them to have anything but the highest level of kindness and respect for their customers. Being the consummate businessman, D.J. treats the running of 100 Proof Tattoo with the same level professionalism as his other businesses. As both he and Jamie describe it, they run a tight ship, holding each of their employees to a very high standard both inside and outside of the shop. They wanted this to be a place that your mother could come and feel safe and at home, and believe me, they have accomplished this. I am quite sure that my mother, who is nothing short of straight laced, would gladly take a seat on one of the comfortable couches located in their “Family Room” style waiting area. Here she can admire the large dark red wall [affectionately referred to as wallsconcin] full of all variety of sconces. If that’s not her cup of tea she could amuse herself by shooting a game of pool on the 100 plus year old table that sits near the front of the shop, or browse the large variety of T-Shirts that can be found there as well. A short walk to the rear of the shop to check out the selection of high-end body jewelry would most certainly tickle her fancy.
As I alluded to earlier, there just aren’t enough words to describe the details and care that have been put into the layout and design here. Let me suffice it to say that you will find this place to be more of a spa like feeling than a tattoo shop. This isn’t your grandpa’s tattoo parlor.
Now let me take a moment to tell you about the exceptional staff of 100 Proof Tattoo. In as much as neither D.J. or Jamie are tattooists and that they prefer the business side of things, which allows them time to be more attentive to the clients, they rely on these experienced, talented people to make the magic happen. All of them are artists in their own right and stand behind the quality of their work. Each one bringing to the mix a unique style and diversity to tattooing that only enriches the experience. Josh “Dutch” Butts, specializing in black and grey and bright colors, Bernie Bittinger in black and grey, Dylan Danney in traditional, Bob Grove in manga and comic styles, Josh Schrieber in soft black and grey and new school, Douglas Tesh in realism, and Travis Baker who is a jack of all trades, able to do all forms of tattooing including water colors. Let us not forget Brooke Corvelli who is their body piercer extraordinaire and is licensed and certified beyond West Virginia state requirements in his trade. All members of the staff have the necessary credentials displayed prominently in their workstations and use only one hundred percent disposable equipment that comes in individual blister packs. I can honestly say that you will never find a cleaner, more sterile environment than 100 Proof Tattoo.
Given the high quality experience that is provided here, it is no wonder that they are loved by the community and boast a huge social media following which has reached worldwide status. The use of social media and mail order service of merchandise is yet another facet of business practice that sets them apart from the others. Is it any wonder that 100 Proof Tattoo has reached almost iconic status among their devoted customers? Having been dubbed “Inklings” by Jamie there devotion is such that they command a wall of pictures all their own.
What you will find here is really a big family that continues to grow all the time. Even some of the customers and staff have started their own families together.
It might surprise you to learn that 68% of the customer base consists of women. To break this down even further, 24% of women from ages 25 to 34 hold the number one spot, women 18 to 24 number two, women 35 to 44 number three, and tailing at number four are men of all ages.
I truly hope reading this has helped to dispel any concerns that you may have had in regards to tattoos and those who have them. After all, we are all just everyday people trying to navigate though our lives as best as we can. So, if you should have that secret desire to get inked, I encourage you to stop by 100 Proof Tattoo and take advantage of all they have to offer. Who knows, you may surprise yourself and come away with not just a beautiful tattoo but perhaps a well-placed body piercing as well.