New tattoo shop has begun making its imprint in Red Bank

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RED BANK – Two months after municipal officials approved the zoning for tattoo parlors in Red Bank, Front Street Tattoo has opened shop – and the new business is contributing to the art scene downtown.

The new form of artistic expression is on the block, located at 37 East Front St., to be exact, and the business owner, Michael Nyegaard of Brick, who goes by the nickname, ‘Shoe,’ said his shop serves as a catalyst in “the natural progression of the arts.” 

“Tattoo shops aren’t scary like they used to be,” Nyegaard said during an interview at his shop on Feb. 11.

That day, the veteran ink artist discussed his storefront, his experience as an artist and love for the craft, while simultaneously tattooing a skull on the ribs of his longtime friend, Jim Oswald. 

Nyegaard said council members Erik Yngstrom and Kate Triggiano spearhead the effort to permit a tattoo oriented businesses in town. He said last year, the young council members asked, ‘how do we have a funky art town without funky artists?”

“After the zoning changed (late last year), I looked around and found this spot next to Sugarush bakery,” he continued, pointing to a black curtain. The curtain, Nyegaard said, allows customers to enter the cupcake shop from inside of the tattoo parlor. 

Nyegaard, who has been tattooing since 1981, said the artists at his shop tattooed 40 to 50 individuals at the businesses’ grand opening on Jan. 25.

“(Tattooing) is such an acceptable form of art these days,” Nyegaard said. “I’ve got a lot of young, energetic people working here. Our business is attracting more and more people each day.

“Back in the day, tattoo artists were a small community of people,” Nyegaard continued. “Tattoo artists knew one another, or you knew their lineage. If I didn’t know you personally, I knew the guy who brought you up.”

Nyegaard said individuals who have tattoos contribute to a societal norm that has been established in recent years. More individuals are incorporating the permanent art form on their bodies, he said, because “the value of the art form” is being recognized on a broader scale.

In the past, Nyegaard said if he came across an individual who was heavily tattooed, he either knew them or was the individual that provided them with their tattoos. 

“I was brought up in what used to be the traditional way of tattooing, with that whole motorcycle scene” Nyegaard said. “(Tattooing) has come a long way. The intimidation factor, the stigma behind tattooing is now gone. This (shop) here proves that.”

Asked how this stigma may have been dismantled, Nyegaard said, “If you feel something on the inside, (tattooing) a good way to express it on the outside.”

Nyegaard, who said he received his first tattoo as a teenager, said he would never forget what a former high school teacher cited as Nyegaard’s reason for permanently altering his body.

“I had this old school art teacher in high school that used to question why I would (tattoo) my body,” Nyegaard continued. “One day, (my former teacher) said, ‘I figured it out. You think you are so different on the inside that you want to prove it on the outside.”

“I still think about that,” he continued. “It’s true.

Nyegaard, who said tattooing is a family affair, said he has two other tattoo shops in Linden and New Brunswick. And despite the normalcy that comes with having tattoos, Nyegaard says he will never administer a facial tattoo.

“Tattoos are frivolous and that’s cool. People get tattooed when they are happy, or when they are sad. People get tattooed to commemorate good or commemorate bad. Tattoos are great,” Nyegaard said.