Times of Grace

SID Spotlight

Times of Grace

156 East Milton Avenue

Creating a Business Out of Art; One of Rahway’s Hidden Gems.

Tucked away in plain sight, Times Of Grace has maintained its quiet presence at 156 East Madison Avenue, for the past twelve years. Inside is a beautifully appointed, Zen like private gallery lined with original paintings.

Initially intending to open an art gallery, fine artist and illustrator Robert Mankowski also experimented with ink and the art of tattooing. People responded very positively to his work, and he began getting more requests for his tattoo work than illustrations. Having a young and growing family to support, the tattoo work was proving to be more lucrative, so he shifted his goals for the gallery and opened a tattoo parlor.

When asked why he chose Rahway to set up his studio, he shook his head and said, “this was one of the only cities that would rent to me.” Back in the day, before tattoo art became part of current popular culture, Robert explained, he found there was a certain stigma surrounding his craft. It was still viewed as an underground practice, part of a subculture not always aligning with the mainstream. His wife was a New Jersey native and after being turned down by cities stretching from Verona to Woodbridge, she suggested Rahway. After approaching city hall, he was contacted by a former city administrator who personally took him around the downtown to show him potential locations and available storefronts. He has been here ever since. Today, his inks grace a wide range of clientele crossing cultural and economic divides.

Robert develops a deep connection with his clients. Body art is an extremely personal expression and as they describe what they envision, he mentally creates an illustration in his mind. Each tattoo is an original custom design, specific to the concept expressed by his client. He does not work from a book of pre-created drawings, and will not duplicate a piece, guaranteeing his customers a unique design. Because the work is extremely intricate, a natural bond of trust develops and often turns into friendship.

His customers come from all over, Delaware, Pennsylvania and as far away as California, but he welcomes local business and wants the community to know about his art. He works by appointment only and realizes that his locked door might create a kind of mystique about his business, but because of the nature of the work, he wants to assure his patrons privacy and avoid distractions. Ink is unforgiving and a slip or misplaced line is one mistake that an artist can’t afford to make.

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