Llama Ink officially opens
SPRUCE PINE – Llama Ink tattoo shop is open for business in downtown Spruce Pine and co-owners Leah Keels and Mike Soriano are already serving local clients.
Llama Ink, which is in the same building as Uptown Funk with a back entrance on Bean Tree Lane behind Upper Street, opened in March.
Keels said interest in the business has increased each month.
“We started word-of-mouth marketing months before we opened,” Keels said. “After opening, client interest is increasing and we are so grateful. We are ready to soak in as much experience as we can so we can provide exceptional experiences to our clients.”
Soriano, who handles the art while Keels focuses on marketing and administration, said he stays consistently busy and added he may soon hire some help.
Soriano worked as a tattoo apprentice in Raleigh for more than two years before moving to Asheville hoping to open a shop.
“I was not able to find a shop in Asheville due to the high amount of people moving there all wanting to work at a shop, too,” Soriano said.
Keels and Soriano began searching for a studio and their search led them to Spruce Pine.
“Mike and I would come to Spruce Pine from Asheville every day we had off to market his work while I researched potential rental spaces,” Keels said.
Keels said Spruce Pine is a natural fit for the business.
“Any successful business owner puts deep thought and research into the community as a whole when it comes to picking a location for your business,” she said. “The way of living matches ours. We are simple, minimalistic people who appreciate these beautiful mountains. We welcome anyone from all walks of life to share their art.”
Keels said the community has been very supportive of the business. Main Street Executive Director Libby Phillips helped the two settle on the rental spot and Uptown Funk owner Jann Godwin welcomed them with open arms and offers help and support.
Gina Gregory owns and operates Private Eyes, a permanent cosmetics business in the same building as Llama Ink and Uptown Funk.
Keels said the trio of businesses is a perfect fit.
“Our confidence and local support also comes from businesses like DT’s, Sillman Home Buyers and Ya Ya Market,” Keels said. “It feels good knowing that other businesses here want you to succeed.”
Soriano said people interested in getting a tattoo can contact him online or stop by in person.
He offers consultations where he provides advice and can set up a session after a sketch is completed.
“No human being is identical,” he said. “Every canvas is different. I provide my professional advice for a long-lasting tattoo. Taking care of your tattoo is the most important thing so I make sure the client has a full disclosure of care instructions before they leave.”
Soriano said his favorite designs are sacred geometry and dots, but he takes pride in all of his work.
“Every tattoo has a story behind it,” Soriano said. “That makes the tattoo so much more meaningful for me and the client. Our goal is to provide every client with a tattoo experience that is like no other. There are always good vibes and non-judgmental ears to listen.”