Fun City Tattoo is Manhattan’s most in-demand shop.
Fun City Tattoo is located at 94 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village and is the oldest tattoo shop in Manhattan. Some of your favorite celebs have gotten inked here, Sza, Naomi Campbell, and the legend herself, Kate Moss, – to name a few. We chat with Maxx and Big Steve about the future of the shop, living in New York City, and some of their favorite tattoos they’ve created. During its start in the 80s, the original owner Jonathan Shaw gained quite a range of patrons, including gang members, Hell’s Angels motorcyclists, celebs, and artists associated with New York’s upper echelons. Personalities like Iggy Pop, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jim Jarmusch, Kate Moss, John Joseph, and Naomi Campbell, illustrate its broad appeal and cultural significance. The shop offers both walk-ins and appointments. The current artist roster features a diverse group of tattoo artists including talents like Joel Baca, Ryan E, Dylan Kraus, Diego, Tessa BX, and Jesus Antonio. Notably, many of Fun City’s artists have embarked on captivating journeys. For instance, Will Shelton now paints and exhibits at international galleries, and Dylan Kraus has evolved into a “living painting” and multidisciplinary artist.
Fun City blends the past and present with its diverse artist collective, solidifying itself as a staple of the St. Marks community – partnering in/ hosting events of all kinds with brands like Private Policy, No Agency, etc. The fact they’ve managed to maintain the admiration and relevancy after decades of existence is a testament to the culture they embody and preserved throughout the past decades.
In the words of Big Steve, “Our mission is simple: client happiness. No egos, no drama, just a good dose of positivity laced with a hint of sarcasm”. Book your Appointment HERE
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM JONATHAN SHAW IN THE TATTOO INDUSTRY?
Jonathan mostly taught me to hustle up and that negativity only attracts negativity. I remember the first year tattooing full time It was winter, and I hadn’t tattooed anyone in weeks I began questioning what I was doing with my life Jonathan was in town, and when he came by he explained to me that sitting around the shop being miserable just keeps people away from the shop. Most of my lessons in running a business actually came from Michelle Myles and Brad Fink who own Daredevil and a good friend Frank Romano who owns Divinci Tattoo in Long Island – Big Steve
OUT OF ALL THE CHARACTERS YOU HAVE TATTOOED WHAT YOUR WILDEST STORY?
I mean the wildest story was oddly enough I was tattooing a fighting Irish man on two guys from Ireland it was probably late 2 a.m. and a drunk guy came in screaming how he was a lawyer and he was going to sue us. The two guys I was tattooing mind you it was the one guy’s bachelor party and he had woken up that morning to one of his eyebrows being shaved off looked at me and said Stevie, you want us to handle this they proceeded to be the crap out of this guy outside the shop and then came in and finished getting tattooed. – Big Steve
ST MARKS IS AN INSTITUTION WHERE WE HAVE HAD MANY FUN NIGHTS IN OUR INDIE SLEEZE ERA, WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING TO KEEP THAT LEGACY MOVING?
I think most importantly at least for me I grew up coming to punk shows in the East Village so I spent a lot of time on Saint Mark. The place it is now barely resembles what it used to be seems the punks all disappeared the least we can do is have one last bit of resemblance to the old ways – Big Steve
It’s all in our name. The shop is a downtown New York City tattoo institution on St. Mark that’s been here for over forty years. We have clients who have gotten tattooed here for that amount of time and we have eighteen-year-old kids from the Lower East Side coming in for their first tattoo at the same time slot. I can’t think of any other retail space in New York where you have such a diverse clientele on such an important street hanging out together for hours. Once night hits, things pump a bit at Fun City. The shop is small, about half the size of a subway car, so the energy created in the room compresses throughout the day. By 8 or 9 pm things are rockin’ and people love us for that. To catch the shop at maximum, come in when Steve is working. – Maxx
WHAT AREA OF THE BODY HURTS THE LEAST FOR TATTOOS FOR BEGINNERS?
The bicep is probably the easiest do yourselves a favor get the hard spots done first ribs chest etc. you will thank me later. – Big Steve
WHAT IS THE CRAZIEST TATTOO A CELEB HAS GOTTEN NO NAMES ARE NEEDED BUT DO TELL
One handcuff on each wrist. – Maxx
Definitely Hennessy logo on the forehead. – Big Steve
YOU GUYS HAVE NOTABLY GIVEN SO MANY TATTOO ARTISTS THE ABILITY TO TAKE THEIR SKILL TO THE NEXT LEVEL LIKE DYLAN KRAUS, WHO IS CURRENTLY ON STAFF DO YOU FEEL IS THE NEXT TO BLOW UP?
Steve and I have the best team we’ve had in our time owning the shop. You can say any of their names around the city and people will tell you how good they are at tattooing. Right now you can go to Paris or London and catch our tattoos out and about. The current staff is blowing the shop up. They are all ripping right now. – Maxx
I think equally all of our employees have the ability to blow up I’m hoping it’s not just one but all of them equally in this together. – Big Steve
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO THE TATTOO BUSINESS, IF YOU DIDN’T FOLLOW THIS DREAM WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE?
Growing up listening to punk rock and hardcore it was either skating or tattooing, and risking hurting my body on a board never interested me. – Maxx
I would definitely either be digging ditches or some kind of criminal I don’t have the pretty story that a lot of people would think of tattooing no formal art instruction no real education etc. – Big Steve
WHAT YOUR FAVORITE NIGHTLIFE SPOT IN NYC?
It’s not possible to have one favorite place in New York City. If you do have one then you’re not exploring enough. There are rooms in New York for whatever you’re feeling that night or for wherever you are. Jimmy’s Corner in Times Square for the best jukebox in the city, Smalls in the West Village to wake up, The York for a classic East Village night, Sway on the West Side to dance, Little Frankies for a 3 a.m. dinner, The Bowery Hotel for Martinis, and Village Works on St. Marks which has the best curation of books in the city and it’s open for all hours of the night seven days a week. – Maxx
This is a question probably more for Maxx I’m old and don’t go out much anymore but I would say if I was to be out I would probably hit Goodbar Jonny is a good friend who’s supported me for the last 20 years. – Big Steve
WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE GENTRIFICATION OF SO MANY AREAS OF NYC?
New York always changes, but this one has hit me differently. Rent and food are beyond what people should be paying to maintain a good quality of life in a city that’s already quite difficult. We don’t live in the city that doesn’t sleep anymore because you save money when you sleep. Anyone who’s moved here recently knows the city as what it currently is, and they seem content maybe even happy and this is how New York operates. People who have lived here a long time can no longer accept the changes, and new people take those apartments. This city is a beast and there will always be happy people here that have a while to figure that out. Happiness always exists here despite the changes no matter how extreme. – Maxx
I think what’s happening now is beyond gentrification NYC is for the rich and slowly but surely they are turning it into a giant strip mall which sucks cause in today’s times it’s getting harder and harder to get people to support local businesses. – Big Steve
HAILING FROM VIRGINIA, WHAT HAS NYC TAUGHT YOU?
I can be myself here for good or bad. You can always find someone that will match your current personality, and as I said before, you can always find a room that will do the same. It makes the rest of the world difficult. I’ve been upstate once. What do I do if I need a bodega, which has all the necessities (sp) of life, in the middle of the night? – Maxx
WHAT WAS THE WILDEST PARTY AT FUN CITY?
The best parties are the unplanned ones. Where friends of the shop come in at the end of the night, good customers are there, and the tattooers don’t want to go home. Those parties can last til the early hours of the morning. – Maxx
Every day is a party at fun city. – Big Steve
HOW DO YOU FEEL ART OF TATTOO HAS EVOLVED IN 10 YEARS?
There are a lot of great tattooers now and these people become good quite fast. The references are there for everyone, the equipment has made it easier, and iPads make drawing easier. The competition is stiff but it’s providing Fun City with incredible talent as we pull the best from the best. – Maxx
The last ten years I think social media has started to kind of get rid of all the creativity everyone’s tattoos look the same now people only do one specific style of tattooing although the algorithm on Instagram sucks now and no one sees your work I think peoples tattoos will start getting better because of it. Quit referencing tattoos and look at the real thing.- Big Steve
HOW MUCH IS A TATTOO AT FUN CITY DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING FOR ALL BUDGETS?
If the client isn’t asking us to make a mountain out of a molehill, we have tattoos for all New York budgets. – Maxx
We try and cater to everyone but honestly, some people are impossible to please. – Big Steve
WHAT IS NEXT ON YOUR SUPERSTAR JOURNEY OF FUN CITY?
We’re working on getting a shop put on the top of the Empire State Building. Permits and such are slowing things down but it’s in the works! – Maxx
For me, it will be trying to keep that street alive and keep the shop alive so hopefully, my kids can take my part there. – Big Steve