Custom Body Art In Kapaa

Cory Alameda
Co-owner of Kapu Tattoo

Please tell us about your business. We are a tattoo shop and do piercings as well. We have a lot of combined experience in the shop. We really like to do solid, clean tattoos that age well. We do a lot of color work, but we also do a lot of black, as well as black-and-gray work – a lot of Polynesian work. Before we opened in our new location in Kapaa behind Lemongrass restaurant in November 2013, we were in the Dragon Building for four-and-a-half years.

What is your background in tattooing? I’ve been tattooing about 14 years. I started in Northern California and worked in Nevada, Philadelphia, on Oahu and Kauai.

How do people choose their tattoos? Sometimes people will come in and pick something out of our book, like someone who is visiting might just want a plumeria, for example. We can sketch out something custom, or they can pick out something we’ve done already. We do a lot of custom work, too. We do sleeves, back pieces and large tattoos. In that case, we usually talk with the person first to get to know them and get a feel for what they want.

One thing we don’t do here is pressure you to get a tattoo. People sometimes will come in, and they’ll be on the fence. We want to tattoo you, but if you have any doubt, wait until you’re 110 percent, then you know for sure and you’ll never regret it.

How did you start this business? My business partner, Garrett Casse, started Kapu Tattoo and asked me to join him shortly after he opened. I was on Oahu at the time at Skin Deep, but I had worked for Garrett for four years in Reno, so he knew he could trust me and I could trust him, and that we’d make good partners.

He called me up and asked me to move over from Oahu and buy into the shop, and the rest is history.

Why did you start this business? I always drew, and I was always into doing artwork. But I have to say my mom had a boyfriend who created tattoos and he inspired me.

What was your first tattoo? A symbol for the Roman numeral III. I was writing graffiti with a crew in California. It was my first tattoo, and I wanted to do something that had graffiti flair to it.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? You meet a lot of really interesting people. Also, you work really hard at something, and you put your heart and soul into a nice tattoo, but it walks out the door. And that’s kind of a cool thing: You don’t get too attached to what you’re doing – you make it happen and you’re giving it away.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? Doing the tattoos. Different parts of the body are more difficult than other parts.

What’s the most painful area to tattoo? In my opinion, probably your ribs, but I’m sure a foot or a neck would be equally as painful in a different way.

Does it hurt? You are going to feel it. Some people will say it’s like a bee sting or a pinch. It’s a feeling within itself. When it’s finished, it’ll feel like bad sunburn or a minor road rash.

How long does an average tattoo take? For a small tattoo, it could take 10 minutes. Some of the pieces, like a sleeve, could take up to 20 to 40 hours.

What’s the most unusual tattoo you’ve created? A taco pooping ice cream. It was a South Park character – a shape shifter. The person who wanted it was a South Park fan.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? Besides my alarm clock, I think it’s awesome that we get to create every day and we get to see people leave with smiles.

What sets your business apart from others? We love doing what we do and we’re fortunate to do it, so we take a lot of pride in our work, and that shows in the way the shop looks – our cleanliness, the care we put into what we’re doing, how we treat people when they come in and our work when it walks out the door.

4-871 A Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa