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New Dunn Loring tattoo and piercing shop carves out welcoming space for women

As Wicked Goddess readied for its March 1 opening in the Shops at Avenir Place, founder Rachel Mantha admits she was nervous about how the community would react.

To her relief, residents and other businesses have been fully supportive of the tattoo and body piercing shop since it opened at 2672 Avenir Place, where it sits between a Tropical Smoothie Cafe and MyEyeDr just steps from the Dunn Loring Metro station.

“The local neighborhoods have been super welcoming of us, actually,” Mantha told FFXnow last week. “I was a little concerned whether or not we’d be accepted. You know, tattoo shops…kind of get a bit of a bad rap, but the locals have like been super, super great [about] our presence and stuff there.”

An 11-year veteran of the body art industry who specializes in piercings, Mantha hopes to foster a similarly accepting environment at Wicked Goddess for customers and her all-female team of artists.

As an independent contractor, she was already working under the company name while employed by a different tattoo shop in Fairfax County, but about four years ago, she started contemplating launching her own brick-and-mortar location.

At the time, the body art world was grappling with allegations of abuse, racism and sexual misconduct, as the #MeToo movement spurred customers and artists to share their experiences in an industry that prides itself on being self-regulating and “edgy.”

While she didn’t detail specific experiences, Mantha says many of the artists now at Wicked Goddess came from shops “where not-so-great practices have been established.”

“There’s been a lot of unfortunate events, I guess, is the best way to put it,” she said. “…Unfortunately, a lot of our clients have kind of been in that same boat too, where they came out of a tattoo or a body modification situation feeling like they weren’t heard or like they weren’t actually represented appropriately in their service.”

Wicked Goddess aspires to provide an alternative, inclusive space for female and LGBTQ individuals, as well as people from different cultures. Many of Mantha’s Muslim clients, for instance, will only work with female artists, she says.

Mantha started planning the shop and researching potential locations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses were required to close. The lack of existing tattoo or piercing shops in the Dunn Loring area and its proximity to Metro made Avenir Place a good fit.

“We wanted to be in a place that was underserved more or less,” Mantha said, noting that many clients and even some staff members “don’t necessarily drive…So, we do get a lot of clients that just having Metro access is super important to them.”

Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, Wicked Goddess has six service bays and currently employs three tattoo artists, along with Mantha as the piercing specialist and a shop manager who’s also Mantha’s apprentice.

The shop is open to walk-in customers, but Mantha recommends that anyone interested in a specific artist make an appointment, since they can get booked up quickly.

While there are no plans at the moment for additional locations, the shop could expand as it adds more artists and potentially outgrows the approximately 1,500-square-foot space.

“Our base has grown in the last few weeks, it seems, and our presence is much better known, which is just really exciting,” Mantha said. “I think everybody is just excited to kind of take on this new project and be a part of something that’s not common in the industry.”

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