I'm Alley Cat Joe and alongside my beautiful wife, we have turned a raggedy old scooter shop into the cleanest, most reputable shop in Brunswick County. We believe the most important part of the tattoo experience is being comfortable with your artist. In order to be comfortable, you need to know their story and this is ours.
When I was 14 years old I got my first tattoo at a little shop in Canada. All I needed was a parent signature, so I told my mom she could pick where and what I got, I just wanted a tattoo. The next day she came back to get hers, and I kept nagging until I was sitting in the seat proud as a peacock. While there I kept annoying the artist with a million questions. The following year my sister asked to get a tattoo, to which my mother immediately told her no. When my sister asked why, my mother -not knowing I was in the other room- said, “because Joe will never amount to anything”, which is why she was okay with me getting a tattoo, and not my sister. That was the day I went from being a fan of tattooing to being dedicated to making something of myself doing the same thing my mother thought was something only for bums and losers. I started pick poking my friends with Indian ink, needle and thread and tried to convince anyone I met to invest in a tattoo kit for me with no luck. Shortly after meeting my wife, a friend who was a tattoo artist called me wanting to sell some of his old equipment. Unfortunately, I had no money so I told him I'd have to pass.
I told my wife about the conversation she told me to call him back and said she would pay for the equipment. I was blown away, this was the first time anyone supported my dream of being a tattoo artist enough to actually fund it. I wasted no time, and I immediately called him to buy the equipment. By the end of the night, I was doing horrible tattoos on anyone who would sit in my chair. Over the next few years, I spent every moment I could studying tattoo videos and drawing. I was doing everything I could do to make the transition from scratcher to tattoo artist. I got a job at a scratcher shop called Rats Nest Tattoos. I dedicated myself to that shop, even going as far as to help fund its relocation. The owner of the shop was set in his ways and was not in any better shape than I was, but it was my only option.
At this time I had started self-medicating. I was using the hard drugs to help numb the pain of my daughter not being with us. Along our journey, like many others, my wife and I hit a rough patch and separated for a short time. During that time, my mother -the same woman who had little to no faith in me- convinced me that my wife was going to run off with my daughter and that giving her custody would be the best option for me. To this day, believing her is my biggest regret. once the paperwork was done, my mother took my daughter from me. Even though my wife and I had reconciled and my daughter was our middle child, she refused to give her back. Us not being able to afford an attorney just made me feel more helpless and the drugs made all that pain go away. Unfortunately, the drugs took so much more than the pain away, they gave my mother the reason she needed to keep my daughter from me. Easter of 2015, I told my wife I didn't want to be a scumbag junkie anymore and she agreed. Around the same time, my biological father and I had started talking and he told us if we wanted to move to Florida he could set us up with a house. We packed our stuff up into a U-Haul and left with $35 to our name and the desire to have a better life.
God had a plan for us though. Two years prior to moving I began following a machine builder by the name of Chad Jaynes, who just so happen to have a shop in the town I moved to. He saw a post I had made about tattooing my wife and called me out for doing it at the house. I sent him a message explaining that I love tattooing and I couldn't live without it, that if I couldn't find the shop to do it in I had to do it somehow. He invited me to do the tattoo on Rachel at his shop, which I gratefully accepted. When we pulled into the shop parking lot I told Rachel, we don't have to do this we can just tell everyone I failed...to which she replied, “that's not an option”. She believed in me and we would do it together. I walked into that shop nervous and dope sick, shaking like a leaf. On top of all of that, Chad decided to switch the designs at the last minute. At the end of the tattoo, he looked at it and told me if I could shake that bad and pull clean lines, he'd give me a chance.
In July I started at Alley Cats Tattoo Studio in Jacksonville Florida. Over the next year, Chad helped me grow as an artist, and a man. I learned that tattooing was so much more than just a needle in skin, it was a way of life, a brotherhood and not to be taken lightly, that having respect for yourself as well as the client is key. Together we made Alley Cats tattoo one of the most recommended shops in Jacksonville. However, if you haven't learned by now, every time something good happens there's also something bad. My father had been pocketing our rent and electric from our first payment, collectively screwing us out of $5,000. Thankfully Chad had a room above his garage and let us stay with him until we got on her feet.
Unfortunately, there was more bad news in our future, the building we were in had several issues the landlord refused to fix and they were starting to affect the shop. Sadly, we couldn't find another landlord willing to rent to a tattoo shop, this left Chad with no other option but to close the shop. During our time in Florida, my mother began leading us to believe that now that our life was together, we could begin transitioning Kyah back home...if we lived closer. We all agreed that going back to Holden Beach, North Carolina was the best route. We moved in with my mother to help her sell her house and 4 months later move back to Holden Beach. While in Florida I paid Booth rent to work at Chad's shop, so Rachel and I agreed that if I could open a shop for the amount of money I was paying in Booth rent each month, we would take the chance and open one. My grandparents found us a little building that was for rent, a former scooter repair shop with a lot of water damage. We asked my grandparents to borrow $1,000, and we put $400 in savings to give us a jump start on the first month's bills.
I told Rachel if we can just get it presentable and start making money I'll put back in every dollar I can. In October of 2017, Alley Cat Joe's Tattoo Studio officially opened. Being the slow season we were extremely nervous but things went great, our schedule began filling up and we started gaining popularity. We slowly started upgrading the shop and we still continue to do so. We are THE Tattoo Shop in Brunswick County. Not only because we offer quality work and are extremely clean and welcoming, but we also do all we can to help the community and the children in it. Whether it be through our toy drives, our Easter egg hunts, or our multiple fundraisers. Alley Cat Joe's prides itself on being an asset to the community and showing people it's cool to help others and to be a good person.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, all good things come with a bad, and shortly after opening, my mother took our daughter and left for Jersey refusing to let us be involved. We are currently doing all we can to make this right in the court and we thank all of our followers for their prayers and support. While our story has a lot of negative in it, we choose to focus on the positive and keep pushing forward. Tattooing has saved and helped my family more than I can even begin to express which is why I take it so seriously. It is my promise to always offer the best tattoo/ experience possible.
Now that you know us on a personal level, feel free to check the work we offer. I have been featured in Tattooland and Southport Magazine as well as sponsored by Hardlife Rotaries. Making us the first sponsored artist in Brunswick County. We have also formulated our own aftercare that is all-natural and cuts healing time down to under a week in most cases. We pride ourselves on being the most advanced shop in the area. We don't just do tattoos, we offer a tattoo experience. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us.