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It’s just, like — be nice to people dude — do nice tattoos is a given, but be nice, too.
Jeremiah Clifford

Ink Inc.

Jeremiah Clifford opened Working Class Tattoo in 2008. Four years later, his shop in Syracuse continues to thrive despite a tough economy.

Jeremiah Clifford started his small tattoo shop, Working Class Tattoo, during a tough economic period in Syracuse. But, while some small businesses struggle to survive, Clifford’s shop continues to draw in customers through his laid-back, easy-to-talk-to personality and original artwork.

In 2008, Clifford left the local tattoo shop he was working for to open his own shop on James Street and South Edwards Avenue. His shop features a main lobby, a tattoo room with two sitting areas, walls covered in original artwork, and an apartment directly over his shop.

While working as a tattoo artist in other shops, Clifford saved up enough money to reach his ultimate goal of owning a tattoo shop.

With the amount of money he saved, and by keeping in touch with clients he made over the years, Clifford was able to open without an immediate financial burden.

“I had clients booked for a month after I opened,” said Clifford.

“There was a little bit of remodeling to get the place looking how I wanted to, but it was a pretty reasonable price for a storefront. I didn’t have to take out any loans, or borrow any money, so I opened and immediately started tattooing.”

The tattoo industry has been able to survive the tough economy. A report from shows the industry grosses $2.3 billion annually, a statistic that doesn’t seem unlikely when you consider that a third of Americans ages 18 to 25 have a tattoo.

With 14 tattoo shops in Syracuse, how does a small shop like Clifford’s stay in business and thrive?

Clifford said he relies on word of mouth for new customers. When they leave the shop he wants them to love the tattoo and to show it to all of their friends.

Clifford also believes that his success comes from his ability to set himself apart from his competitors. Two ways that Clifford tries to differentiate himself from the other shops are in his work and attitude.

Returning customer, Liz McCormick, who already has one tattoo by Clifford, would agree.

“Getting tattooed by Jeremiah is like visiting a buddy. He is fun to just talk to while getting tattooed and the work is just, just great,”said McCormick.

“Some shops around here it’s all strictly about clientele and numbers,” said Clifford. “It’s totally a bummer when I hear that about people’s tattoo experience’s, especially at a shop where they do nice tattoos. It’s just, like — be nice to people dude — do nice tattoos is a given, but be nice, too.”

One of the factors Clifford attributes to his success is how he decided to staff Working Class Tattoo.

“I like to let it happen organically, and if we get along and they are great artists then it will work out. It’s more who will I like to work with, who is fun to work with and who will do a good job,” said Clifford.

The biggest and most rewarding challenge of staffing Working Class Tattoo was bringing in his apprentice, Mike Pilger, said Clifford.

“Having an apprentice is not something I take lightly or I allow Mike to take lightly. It’s a very intensive process of training,” said Clifford.

Successful businesses usually look to expand, but Clifford is more focused on the present.

“One tattoo shop run well is about all I have the energy to offer, and probably about as rewarding as I’m looking to get,”said Clifford.