Cleveland Gen X Tattoo Artist Exemplifies Entrepreneurship
When Ron Antonick was 14, he was beaten and robbed in his Cleveland neighborhood. The following year, he was stabbed in the chest during a fist fight. He went on to get kicked out of 10th grade and was later expelled from alternative school. By age 17, he’d spent six months living in his car.
In many ways Antonick’s life experiences are a checklist of the collective persona of Generation X (1961-81). Born in 1970, Antonick was the youngest of four children; a child of divorce and a latchkey kid.
“We basically raised ourselves,” he says, “because mom had no choice but to work constantly to feed us. It wasn’t her fault. I really hated things back then. But now I’m glad it happened the way it did because it taught me early on to do for myself.”
One of the hallmarks of Generation X is entrepreneurism, something Antonick demonstrated in 1984. “I got my first tattoo at age 14,” he says. “At 15, my friends wanted tattoos. I could draw, so, I made a homemade tattoo machine and started tattooing myself and my friends.”
In a recent USA Today article, Neil Howe, a leading expert in generational research, said that while Generation Xers say, ‘I can take care of myself,’ Generation Yers, say ‘You want to shelter me.’
From the 1999 movie Fight Club, a favorite among Gen Xers: "A generation of men raised by women." (Tattoo by Ron Antonick)
Antonick validates that statement. Despite his troubled youth he didn’t think the world owed him something. At 18, he invested his gift for drawing in an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop and learned the proper way of tattooing.
In 1997, he opened Gen X Tattoos, just 15 minutes from the Cleveland neighborhood where as a youth he’d been robbed and beaten. Considered among the best in Cleveland, the shop’s name was born out of a conversation between Antonick and a friend. “We were talking about how funny it was that everyone looked at us with fear and thought we’d either served prison time or were criminals,” Antonick says. “My friend referred to us as the epitome of Gen X.”Continued on the next page