Ahwatukee is rolling up its sleeves to a new and unique establishment: Wookie Style Tattoos.
Wookie Style – the first, and only, tattoo parlor in the community, at 4142 E. Chandler Blvd. – is owned by husband-and-wife team Terry “Wookie” and Barbi Hoffman.
The Chandler couple chose to put their new business in Ahwatukee because they “love the vibe” of the area and felt that they “had the potential of being welcomed here,” Barbi said.
Wookie is an Arizona native and has been in the tattoo industry locally for over 25 years. He has also been internationally recognized on the convention circuit.
“Wookie has been drawing his entire life,” his wife said. “He grew up poor, so pencils were his toys. He sold artwork for money as a kid, and when he grew up he met a gentleman who loved his artwork and knew how to tattoo. He invited Wookie to apprentice under him. Turned out Wookie was better at tattooing than his mentor.”
After an injury ended his career as a mechanic, he decided to focus all his attention on his art, continuing his professional apprenticeship under another full-time artist. Wookie spent 21 years as the lead artist at the original Club Tattoo in Tempe and just recently broke out on his own in 2016.
He opened his first shop in a small space inside Independent Motorcycles, but when he was approached by other artists who wanted to work for him, he and Barbi made the leap to Ahwatuklee.
“Wookie has a loyal following of clients he has been tattooing for over 25 years,” she added. “Now they’re bringing in their children and even grandchildren to be tattooed by him – all of age, of course. He has regular clientele that travel to Arizona from as far as Germany just to be tattooed by him.”
Barbi has been in the banking business since college, but when her husband decided to expand, she joined his shop, doing the accounting, bookkeeping, promotions and marketing since opening in February.
They were joined by two other artists – James Patrick, who has been tattooing for 17 years, and Sway Alvarez, a seven-year veteran of tattooing.
Wookie Style Tattoos defies the tattoo parlor stereotype. It is not dark and dingy, nor is it covered in “you pick it, we stick it” designs.
Instead, Wookie and Barbi seek to create a clean, family-friendly environment centered on creating amazing art and putting the customer first.
The shop itself is designed to be inviting. With cutouts in the wall, the space is open and airy. The décor includes pictures of the artist’s previous work, as well as various “Star Wars” books, figurines, and plush. Wookie’s love of the series is what gave him his nickname.
The welcoming ambiance really does invoke a family-friendly environment, uncommon to most tattoo parlors.
“Everyone around here has wives and kids. We want to be a place where people feel comfortable bringing their family,” Wookie says.
They also show this family-oriented attitude through their limited hours. By being open only on weekdays, the couple can spend more time with their family.
They try to stand out in a highly competitive field.
“Our artists consistently strive to further their artistic abilities by reaching outside the traditional boundaries, also competing at conventions across the country and internationally,” Barbi said. “Even though each artist has their specialty, they are experienced and well-versed in all styles of tattoo artwork. They are also OSHA-certified in bloodborne pathogens – an optional certification in the state of Arizona). We maintain immaculate workstations and utilize all disposable materials, versus other shops that sanitize and reuse materials.
Moreover, the pair strives to put the customer first in all their exchanges.
“We’re about building relationships, getting tattooed is a very personal choice and we want to give each customer the very best piece of artwork that they’ll wear on their body for the rest of their life,” she said.
They build that bond in different ways.
They never charge for consultations.
The don’t pressure anyone. “A tattoo should really speak to you, and you should consult multiple people and do lots of research before committing,” Wookie said.
And they try to always give their customers more than they ask for.
One woman came into the shop with a picture of an antique corkscrew that was sentimental to her and her family, and Wookie was able to reimagine her image into something she thought was more beautiful and meaningful than she had ever hoped for.
This customer-forward attitude has served Wookie well, as his customers keep coming back for more, often referring friends and family to him.
“About 70 percent of his customers are repeat customers,” Barbi said.
Added Wookie: “There’s a difference between tattooists and tattoo artists. Tattooists are just in it for the money, but tattoo artists are there for the art.”
In fact, Wookie believes that the future of the tattoo industry is in the art. This is why the shop is full of canvas art prints of tattoos.
The shop also recently hired a microblading professional. This new addition should appeal to those in Ahwatukee looking to step up their cosmetic game, Barbi said.
The business also is also showing Ahwatukee love.
“We’re working really hard to give back to the community,” Barbi said. “We are big supporters of the military and first responders with a 10 percent discount at all times. We will be doing a semicolon special in September where all proceeds will go to suicide awareness charities.
“Wookie has also done a lot of work on cancer survivors, scar cover-ups and reconstruction tattoos, so we’ll be doing additional promotions for Breast Cancer awareness in October.”