Tattoos can help you find your voice.

Brooke Koehnke, Assistant General Manager at Hart & Huntington Orlando, can back that up.

She not only rocks her own set of tattoos, but she also plays a pivotal role in how you feel when you enter our shop, and when you go home.

When we have first timers come in, they’re always so terrified. When you walk into a typical tattoo shop, it’s usually dark, intimidating and filled with scary guys. We try to be the exact opposite of that.

Hart & Huntington tattoo shops are anything but conventional. Our artists and staff are the best in the business, but they’re also the realest, nicest people you’ll ever meet.

My favorite part of my job is taking that fear away and seeing people realize they can be comfortable and happy getting a tattoo here. They leave super stoked and come back for their second, then a full sleeve, and so on. They come to the realization that they can be themselves here, and seeing that transformation is really cool.

Brooke joined the H&H team in 2018, and her first experience setting foot in the Orlando store wasn’t all that different than from our first-time clients.’

 I was always pretty into tattoos when I was younger, but never thought I’d get an opportunity to work in a shop. 

She first got interested when she was 13 or 14. She was one of those kids that was into henna and drew on herself with Sharpie.

 My sister got her first tattoo when she was 18. I watched her design it and come home with it, and knew I wanted one too. So just two weeks after I turned 18, I walked into a tattoo shop with a design ready. It was a typical scary tattoo shop. The guy who did my tattoo didn’t talk to me the whole time. 

Even though she still loves that tattoo to this day, she wasn’t a fan of the experience. Especially when comparing it to the first time she stepped into Hart & Huntington Orlando.

Brooke Koehnke, Assistant General Manager at Hart & Huntington Orlando
When I first walked in, I was taken aback by how super fresh and clean it was. I had one visible tattoo at the time and felt a little over my head thinking I’d fit in when everyone around me was covered from head-to-toe.

But then something changed.

It was a really welcoming environment. Everyone was so nice to me. Any intimidation I’d initially felt quickly went away.

She knew in that moment that she wanted to work here. And it was a life-changing moment.

When I started working there, I might have said three words. My job was to walk in, fold some shirts, and go home. But the atmosphere and people here encouraged me to speak my mind and have a voice. Joining the Hart & Huntington team has given me the confidence I never had.

That’s what tattoo culture—Hart & Huntington culture—is all about. Having the confidence to try something new, whether that’s in the form of a new job or getting a new tattoo. Having the confidence to get a tattoo in the first place. To wear it proudly. To express all sides of yourself.

It’s what attracted Brooke to tattoos in the first place. She’s drawn to the self-expression and empowerment that comes with it.

Everyone has a different style, and you can mix and match tattoo styles to express it. And there are so many styles to choose from. You can just wear art that you love and that’s super cool to me.

For Brooke, it’s Japanese and American Traditional.

I love how classic they are, but honestly, when I got some of my first tattoos I was more into Black and Grey. It wasn’t until I joined the shop and learned the history of tattooing and the Traditional styles that I started to develop an appreciation for it.

Since then, she’s gotten most of her tattoos from Hart & Huntington tattoo artist Mark who specializes in Japanese Traditional ink, and from Hart & Huntington tattoo artist Luis who knows American Traditional like the back of his hand.

Luis and I are currently working on a piece for my leg inspired by an Italian tattoo artist, Samuel Brigante. I’m really excited about it. Both Luis and Mark have such attention to detail and understand all the rules of those styles. I admire how much they love Traditional tattoos and put their heart and soul into them.

Brooke’s favorite tattoos are ones that amplify her voice. They tell a story of who she is, of what’s meaningful to her.

One of my favorites is of my grandma’s handwriting. It wasn’t done here and wasn’t done as well as it could have been, but it’s still special to me.

I also have a cardinal for the saying “When a cardinal appears, someone you love is near.” It’s definitely the most meaningful to me.

Now that Brooke is the Assistant GM for our Orlando shop, she gets to help our clients find their voice and show a true side of themselves through custom ink.

We have a repeat customer that comes in with her grandma every time she gets tattooed. It’s always so great to see them. The first time she visited, she got a tattoo of her little sister’s handwriting. She was super nervous, and they cried together when the whole thing was done. She’s been back at least 8 times since then. It’s awesome how comfortable she’s become.

Some of her favorite tattoos she’s seen in the shop are ones that are flat-out funny.

A guy came in and asked for a Rick and Morty tattoo that said, ‘Existence is Pain.’ I loved that. We also have a running thing for people who come in without an idea of what they want. We tell them to get an animal with a top hat and monocle, or acorns, because why not? We convinced two ladies getting their first tattoos to get matching acorns wearing sunglasses and tiaras while giving a thumbs up. And they did it!

Tattoos don’t have to be serious. Sure, some can be sentimental (and that’s great) but it’s just as rad when they show your sense of humor, too.

No matter what you want inked, Brooke and the Orlando tattoo artists at Hart & Huntington will ensure you leave with something you love.

That means we’ll always give it to you straight.

I try to help people have realistic expectations. You can’t believe everything you see on social media. Pinterest is a killer with all these micro tattoos, which last a week and then smush together. Our artists do a great job at small tattoos but know the limits and where to push them so they still heal over time. One of the things we care most about is the longevity of your tattoo. We’re putting our artists and brand name on it, so we want it to look good forever.

We’ll tell you if something won’t last and help you reconfigure it so that it does.

All I can say is trust the artist. They know what they’re doing.

That’s a trust Brooke has earned and reciprocated since she’s been on the H&H team.

The best part about working here has been getting to know everybody and becoming part of the family. I remember hearing during my interview that H&H has a family culture. A lot of places say that, but it really is like that here. I know everyone so well and they know me. My real family is in Illinois, so everyone at the Hart & Huntington shop has genuinely been my family here in Florida.

It’s the unique culture that keeps Brooke motivated.

I do my job to help everyone else here put food on the table. Because their families are also family to me.

Actions speak louder than words; acts of kindness, especially. Hart & Huntington tattoo experiences speak the loudest of all.