Tattoos by Sheila
1596 Massillon Rd.
Akron, OH 44312
Hours: Tues.-Fri.:12 p.m.-8 p.m.
Sat.: 12 p.m.-6 p.m.
Tattoos by Sheila, the oldest operating tattoo parlor in the Akron area, has been in business for 31 years and showing no signs of running out of ink. The shop, owned by artist Sheila Whited, is located on Massillon Road in Akron and offers patrons thousands of tattoo designs to choose from.
The shop also sells jewelry, incense, t-shirts and other gifts for customers and their friends who often come in for moral support. Whited works full- time at the shop and with more than 31 years of experience, she feels her customers are in good hands.
“I’ve tattooed generations. Some kids come in and say that I tattooed their grandparents, so they had to come to me to get theirs,” she said. “One boy came in here the other day to get his first tattoo with his dad and said that I tattooed his grandpa. Now his dad is coming back to get one too.”
If a design on the wall doesn’t catch your eye, Whited can draw a custom tattoo for no extra charge. She ensures that every custom tattoo will be one-of-a-kind; never to be used again on another customer.
Not all tattoos are done for purely artistic reasons. Whited does cosmetic tattoos to help surgery patients disguise scars. She also works closely with plastic surgeons and has taught a few how to do reconstructive breast tattooing to recreate a more lifelike appearance for women who have had breast surgery. She also does eyebrows and eyeliner, which are more common cosmetic tattoos.
Although Whited was born in Virginia, she lived in Green with her family for many years and graduated from Green High School in 1970. She went on to study fashion at college, and ended up stumbling into tattooing. In 1977 she attended the North American Tattoo Convention in Houston, Texas, where she got her first tattoo.
Not long after that, she got another tattoo: this time, a large, colorful butterfly arrangement on her hip, done by artist John Stuckey. She began spending a lot of time in John Stuckey’s tattoo parlor, and he decided to take her on as an apprentice. She learned the craft well and decided to open her own tattoo parlor, Tattoos by Sheila.
Whited has made a good reputation for herself in the community and spends a lot of time volunteering. She is part of the Springfield Women’s Club and has participated in charity events such as Relay for Life, American Red Cross’s “Ride for Red,” and benefits for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Hattie Larlham.
Whited is also part of the National Tattoo Association, which only accepts 11,000 members. She is very serious about tattoo safety, and when she returned to Ohio to open her shop, she was appalled to find there were no tattoo laws. In 1992 she worked with the Akron Health Department, Summit County and the state of Ohio to develop tattoo laws that help keep tattoo parlors in the area safe and sanitary.
Whited suffers from Crohn’s Disease. With her health on the decline and her stress levels at an all time high, she was thinking of retiring. However, after a large change in her life put a halt to her retirement plans, she ended up preparing to expand her business. She is now going back to school to become a personal trainer so she can start a new business with her boyfriend.
“I’m like the Energizer bunny, and you’ll have to stomp on me with a sledgehammer to get me to stop,” she said.
According to Whited, Tattoos by Sheila “is a place you can bring your 2-year-old kid or your 82-year-old-grandma.” She keeps the wall decorations tasteful, the store clean and greets everyone who enters with a smile to make sure her customers and their companions are comfortable.
“People come in as customers, and they leave as friends,” she said, “and I hug my friends.”