By Nicole Collins
On Nov. 13, the sidewalk area of the 100 block of downtown Woodruff was crowded, filled with people waiting hours for a discounted tattoo at Thirty Three VII Tattoos.
The occasion? Friday the 13th.
Owner and tattoo artist Bee Jay Lee has hosted a Friday the 13th event three times since he bought the shop in late 2017.
For the Friday the 13th event, the shop offers more than 20 pages of $20, $40 and $60 flash designs for the clients to choose from. This is a $40 discount on each price level as Lee says they would typically charge $60, $80 or $100 for the same design.
“You don’t make a lot of money at this event. It’s mostly a customer appreciation event,” said Lee.
Lee and his team of four other artists completed about 130 tattoos on about 100 clients in 12 hours. Each person was limited to two tattoos. They had to turn away about 30 – 40 people who were on the waiting list.
Lee said that he can tattoo some of the simple designs in about 15 – 20 minutes. Some of the more complicated tattoos can take about an hour to complete. The flash designs could not be customized but Lee said they tried to offer a variety of designs.
Discounted ink on Friday the 13th is not a new concept, nor one created by Lee. The event has been around the tattoo industry since the mid-1990s.
When the Friday the 13th event originally began, clients could get a quarter-size tattoo for $13 and the number ‘13’ had to be collage somewhere in the tattoo. As time went by, a mandatory $7 tip was added to cover the set-up cost to do a tattoo. Lee recounts that while working at other shops during this event clients didn’t like being told they had to tip the artist.
“When I opened my own shop, I didn’t like the idea of telling clients $13 tattoos with a mandatory $7 tip, hence why our minimum tattoo for the event is $20. We decided to add the $40 and $60 [designs] to the event because clients always asked how much more to make the tattoo bigger because originally the size was only quarter size. We also opted out on having the number 13 collages into the tattoo because in the past most clients always said that they liked the tattoo design but that they did not want to get a number 13 tattooed on them.”
Lee believes that a lot of other shops steered away from the event this year due to COVID-19 but he felt he could hold the event safely. Tattoo shops are already regulated by DHEC, so Lee said it wasn’t hard to implement the additional COVID-19 requirements for the event and everyday business. Artists and clients are always required to wear a mask, hand sanitizer is available and social distancing is enforced. Lee said that at previous events, they would let the crowd hang out inside the shop to watch and socialize, but with the COVID-19 restrictions this time, only 10 people were allowed in the shop – the five artists and the five clients getting a tattoo. The rest of the crowd waited outside.
While the downtown tattoo parlor has been around for about eight years, Lee is the third owner. He bought the tattoo parlor in late 2017 from the previous owner when it was called Black Rose Tattoo. Lee has been an artist for about seven years, but Thirty Three VII Tattoos is his first time running his own shop.
Other than himself, he has three permanent tattoo artists on staff and a guest artist that usually moves around but has been working at the shop recently because of COVID-19.
Typically, Friday the 13th comes once a calendar year, but in 2020, there was two – March 13 and November 13. The next Friday the 13th is August 2021, so make plans to get in line early for you discounted ink.
Thirty Three VII Tattoos is located at 111 S. Main St. in downtown Woodruff. The shop is open Monday –Friday 12 (noon) – 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 12 (noon) to 10 p.m. Appointments and deposits are mandatory.