Cheap Thrills tattoo parlor sets up on Route 10 in Northampton

  • Cheap Thrills, a new tattoo business on Easthampton Road, is between two towns — outside downtown Northampton and close to Easthampton.

  • Joe Cox, co-owner of Cheap Thrills, a tattoo business in Northampton, works on a tattoo for Molly Venne. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Joe Cox, co-owner of Cheap Thrills, a tattoo business in Northampton, works on a tattoo for Molly Venne. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Joe Cox and Cassie Sutter opened Cheap Thrills, a tattoo business in Northampton, after decamping from the Holyoke location they’d been in for the past seven years. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Joe Cox, co-owner of Cheap Thrills, a tattoo business in Northampton, works on a tattoo for Molly Venne. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Joe Cox, co-owner of Cheap Thrills, a tattoo business in Northampton, works on a tattoo for Molly Venne. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/20/2022 8:35:12 PM
Modified: 7/20/2022 8:32:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — With candy apple red wood siding, canary yellow exterior window casings and turquoise-colored trim, the cape at 321 Easthampton Road certainly catches the eye of passersby.

The formerly white single-family home has been transformed into the eye-catching Cheap Thrills tattoo parlor.

“We wanted to do something different. It’s fun to play with a color scheme,” said Cassie Sutter, who co-owns the new Northampton-based shop with Joe Cox. “I drove by this location one day and saw it was for sale and I had that ‘lightning moment’ where I was like, maybe that could work.”

And it did work for the couple, who opened their shop at the end of June.

The inside of Cheap Thrills is just as bright as the outside with distinctive tchotchkes and knick-knacks including a moose’s hoof and glass bottles lining the shelves, and unique paintings on each of the walls.

“I can’t leave things alone for things too banal,” Cox said. “I just like what I like. People contribute and give us stuff … I think they just want to be included in the vibe, overall look and feel like they were there.”

The couple ran a shop with the same name in Holyoke for the past seven years. The colorful flair showcased at their new location could be attributed to their time spent in New Orleans, where they owned another shop that featured a pistachio, purple and yellow scheme, according to Cox.

Sutter met Cox in 2003 at Cox’s first solo tattoo parlor called Cobra Chrome in Holyoke; he was her tattoo artist. The couple began dating a short time later.

“It’s the only tattoo I’ve paid for,” she said with a chuckle.

Three years later, Sutter, who holds a degree in photography from the University of Hartford, began tattooing.

Cox, who studied with the late Henry Schwartz at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, has more than two decades of experience as a tattoo artist. A native of North Carolina, he moved to New York after graduating to be a painter, but found that he didn’t like other people’s involvement in the art that he was making.

“People try to steer you into what sells and I didn’t like it,” he said. “I thought the gallery should sell it and that’s it.”

Throughout the 1990s, he dabbled in tattooing part time for fun. That changed in the late 1990s after he bought a house in Providence and was laid off three weeks later while working for an advertising subcontractor.

“My neighbor across the street, his brother owned a tattoo parlor, and told me to come work for him,” Cox said. “So, I did.”

Cox also is known for his work in the area as the former co-owner of the Mohawk Revenge tattoo parlor, which was one of more than a dozen businesses that burned in a fire at Norwottuck Shoppes Plaza in Hadley in October 2013.

“I’ve found that all things have a purpose — things have a way of working out for the best, I think,” he said.

Laying some ink

Both Sutter and Cox describe much of their lives as being nomadic and “gypsy-esque,” as they both have lived all over.

Sutter, who was the child of a parent in the military and was born in Japan, calls Easthampton her hometown.

With two young children together and Cox’s father in his 80s, the couple decided it was time to lay down some roots and live in West Hatfield today.

“We’re here until I retire,” Cox said.

In addition to Sutter and Cox, Cheap Thrills has two other tattoo artists, Dakota Seback and Chris Soares. All four artists are accomplished in the American traditional style of tattooing. Seback specializes in fine line tattooing and lettering. Sutter also does a lot of hand-poked tattoos, which is a form of tattooing using a sharp point or a stick and some ink to create a design, one dot at a time.

Cox said he does all styles, including Japanese and portrait-style tattoos.

From blue jays landing on the windowsill to deer grazing in the wooded backyard, the new setting also provides a more natural and relaxing environment to work, Sutter says.

“The location is right in between towns — we’re nearby to the growing artist community in Easthampton and we’re not downtown Northampton,” she said. “We spend so much time here. We want it to be a second home. We want it to be inviting and inclusive. We want people to come here.”

Cheap Thrills is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information or to make an appointment, call 413-322-0941.

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