For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with Michelle Myles, owner of Daredevil Tattoo, which recently moved to 141 Division St. after almost 20 years on Ludlow Street.
What do you do?
I am a tattoo artist and I own Daredevil Tattoo.
How long have you lived on the Lower East Side?
I moved to Clinton Street in 1991 and then to Ludlow Street in 1993.
Why did you move here?
I moved to the Lower East Side because it was affordable. My first apartment on Ludlow was $500. Everyone told me Ludlow Street was bad news because of all the drug dealers back then, so when I moved to the block, I tattooed all of them and never had problems. They actually looked out for me; I never had to worry.
Tell us about your apartment – the good, the bad and the ugly.
I live in a tenement apartment next to the old Daredevil location. It’s pretty small but my husband and I have made it pretty cozy. I have no complaints. We face the back of the building, so it’s plenty quiet and all of my neighbors on our floor have been in the building for years, so we kind of stick together. I love the history on the Lower East Side, and when I think of how many people might have been squeezed into these spaces back in the day I feel like we have it pretty good. The worst part of the apartment is outside on the street. Ludlow has become overrun with the bar crowds. This block has lost most all of its neighborhood feel.
Right now my favorite spot on the Lower East Side is the new location for our shop. I love it down on Division. There’s still all sorts of quirky storefronts and it’s a little gritty–it reminds me of Ludlow 15 years ago.
Favorite cheap eats?
My favorite cheap eats right now is Ming’s Cafe on Canal and Essex. We’re over there almost every day since we moved onto Division. Huge portions, always delicious and on the money, plus they’ll whip up anything you think of.
Favorite place for a special night?
For a special night out, we hit Stanton Social. Everything is over-the-top delicious, and it’s my favorite brunch spot, too.
How have you seen the neighborhood change?
This used to be the sort of place people stayed away from if they weren’t from around here. Now the weekends are like Mardi Gras. The worst changes to me are the giant modern buildings that have been allowed to go up and overshadow the historic tenements.
What do you miss from the old LES?
The loss of Max Fish is heartbreaking. It’s not the old Lower East Side any more, that’s for sure.
Is there a new arrival you love? Why?
I love the Hester Street Fair on the weekends. There are always different vendors and it’s something to look forward to every week in the summer. I love having a variety of different snacks at least one day a week. It’s so easy to get tired of your stack of menus.
What drives you crazy about the neighborhood?
The thing that drives me crazy are the people that show up in the neighborhood and have no respect for the fact that people live here. They don’t know how to act, come down here get wasted and treat it like it’s their toilet.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the LES?
There was a woman who lived above the old Daredevil who would drink and not take her medicine sometimes. We called the cops on her once when she was getting out of hand and she bit the cop on the finger.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood character?
Sal at Rosario’s on Orchard is my favorite neighborhood character. He’s so nice and works so hard. When I first moved to Ludlow, his place was on Houston. He always makes you feel like family.
Tell us your best LES memory.
My best LES memory was coming down to Ludlow looking for a place to tattoo out of. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing, people were telling me how dangerous it was down here. The first place I looked at, the landlord said his ex-wife was a tattooer and he had a perfect place for a tattoo shop. He sold me an autoclave and I was in business. The LES was the best move I ever made.