Feb 1, 2024 - Culture

A Richmond zip code has the most tattoo shops in Virginia

Illustration of a heart shaped tattoo with a scroll that has "RVA" written in the center.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Richmond's 23220 zip code has the most tattoo shops in Virginia.

Why it matters: When we asked readers to define Richmond in two words, one answer we got was "tattooed AF." We're here to say a VPM analysis of state records confirms that it's not in your head.

The big picture: The city has a prominent reputation for its tattoo culture, which has shifted toward becoming more diverse and uplifting in recent years, per RVA Mag.

  • There are 14 registered studios in just the 23220 zip code, which stretches from Maymont to Virginia Union University and the Fan to Jackson Ward.
  • VPM set out to answer how Richmond got to this point.

What they found: Tattoos in the 1980s were rare, even in punk circles like GWAR's, a heavy metal band from Richmond, Danny Black — a former GWAR roadie — told VPM.

  • But "Crazy" Ace Daniels, a Canadian tattooer with a shop in the 23220, mainstreamed them in the city and brought in VCU arts students as apprentices, according to Black.
  • Daniels also had major names in the industry, like Ed Hardy, come to Richmond and started Richmond Tattoo and Arts Festival, one of the oldest tattoo conventions in the world.

What's happening: Now, customers are flying in from California and driving out of state for shops like Carytown's Black Rabbit, according to Richmond Mag.

  • Black Rabbit was born out of conversations with clients who wanted to feel safe and accepted when getting tattooed, founder Kim Graziano — or Bunny Machine on Instagram — told VPM.
  • Many of the artists are also women of color, which is uncommon in the usually white and male-dominated industry.

The bottom line: Richmond being a tattoo city is a title decades in the making, and it's not going anywhere any time soon.


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