• Stephanie Rzonca

Tattoo Shops Bring Talent, History Lesson to Rutherfordton

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

No sooner than the ink had dried on Town Council's January 2, 2019 passing of Ordinance 04-19, outlining the central business district standards for Tattoo and Body Piercing establishments, two such establishments have opened for business in downtown Rutherfordton. According to the guidelines set forth in the ordinance, tattoo and body piercing studios are now permitted in Rutherfordton's downtown central business district, so long as their store front and entrance are not on Main Street and are at least 100 feet from an established church or a residential zoning district. The two new businesses, New Creation Tattoo and Piercing, and Central Street Electric Tattoo, have each transformed previously underutilized buildings in the downtown core, and share an enthusiasm for downtown Rutherfordton.





New Creation Tattoo & Piercing, owned and operated by Billy Hardin, was the first shop to open in downtown Rutherfordton. Hardin, a tattoo artist, is joined by other artists Zack Freeman, Jennifer Teague, Casey Smithey and Teddi Teague. Hardin and his team worked tirelessly to completely renovate and rehabilitate the building at 112 W 1st St. into a comfortable, beautiful work space for the artists and clients. "We are so excited to be in downtown Rutherfordton," Hardin said. "We love being able to walk to the restaurants and stores, and I think this location has been such a good fit for our business." New Creation Tattoo & Piercing prides themselves in their family-friendly atmosphere and a "no profanity" policy everywhere in the shop.


Central Street Electric Tattoo was the second shop to open in downtown Rutherfordton. Chris Maier and his fiancee Ashley Biehl came to Rutherfordton after a long-term RV exploration along the east coast. The small town America feel of Rutherfordton and the warm welcome they felt in the community convinced them that this was where they wanted to be. "I'm not a city person at all, but I always ended up in bigger cities and hated it," Maier said, as he was telling me about his 22-year career in the tattoo industry. "We came to Rutherfordton while visiting family and fell in love with this place. The nature and outdoor activities, the people, and the downtown completely charmed me into it." Maier and Biehl did an incredible amount of work to get their shop renovated and ready to open. The name "Electric Tattoo" is a history lesson on the profession of tattooing. It refers to the early advertisements of the trade after the invention of the first electric tattoo machine in 1891, and is a reminder that the profession has been around for over a century.



Maier specializes in custom pieces and American Traditional tattooing, while Biehl's specialty is cosmetic tattooing. Many of Biehl's clients are older women who come to her after having gone through a hard time in their life. "They want something to give them their confidence back," she told me, as she explained that some women lose their eyebrows if they've undergone chemotherapy treatments or have a thyroid condition. Biehl also does work to improve the appearance of scarring and other cosmetic issues, and is one of the only service providers in the region.


These tattoo shops bring with them artists with an enthusiasm for creativity and an infusion of life into buildings that previously had long-term vacancies. The artists' unique talents and experiences are already contributing to the overall community, as they help their neighbors with design assistance or marketing expertise. Having these new businesses in downtown Rutherfordton feeds into a greater mission. "Our goal is to foster successful business and create a flourishing local economy that maintains our unique character," said Doug Barrick, Rutherfordton's town manager. He continued, "To see these new business bringing new life to once empty spaces and attracting new people downtown is a wonderful outcome to this new ordinance."

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