Marcus Dove of Kustom Hustle attributes his success as a tattoo artist to his people skills.
“I’m not terribly concerned with showing off my artistic prowess,” he says. “It’s more about the customer feeling good about themselves. If you treat people like a friend, they keep coming back. I know there are better artists out there, but nobody knows how to treat people better than I do.”
A former Marine with the build to prove it, Dove might look intimidating at first, but get him talking and he’s a true charmer. He opened Kustom Hustle in 2014 after tattooing for nearly twenty years and makes sure the shop conveys his same positive attitude.
“We try to squash [intimidation] right when they walk in the door, give them a nice big dose of Southern hospitality,” he says, noting that he asks everyone, from the counter guy to an off-duty artist, to greet anyone who comes in. “I know that sounds basic in business, but in the tattoo industry it’s unheard of. We’re making common business practices common to tattooing.”
Another way Dove squashes the intimidation is by refraining from throwing shade when clients ask for yet another infinity symbol.
“Trends come and go in tattooing,” Dove notes. “You try and transpose your style onto what’s popular. If I have to do a tribal armband tattoo, I’m gonna make it the best tribal armband I’ve ever done. I let people know, ‘Hey, this is trendy. This might be the next tramp stamp.’ But the important thing is knowing and remembering that if you don’t tattoo it on them, someone else will.”—Rachael Flora
Runner-up: Dean Denney