AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ink Empire sits on the corner of Rosewood and Chicon in east Austin. Its owners, Tracy Armstrong and Matilda Honey, want everyone to feel at home when they walk through their doors.

“Most people come in and are like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s lit, it’s a vibe, I don’t want to leave.’ They just hang out,” Armstrong said.

The DJ inside the shop sets the tone. And it’s hard to miss the tall regal chair sitting in the middle of the back wall, underneath the business’ bold letters, “Ink Empire.”

  • Ink Empire DJ plays music. (KXAN photos/Jake Sykes)
  • Ink Empire DJ prepares a set at the tattoo shop. (KXAN photos/Jake Sykes)
  • The Ink Empire team (Courtesy XVII Media)

Ink Empire has a team of creative artists who each bring in a number of customers.

The tattoo shop is known for its “Mini-Mondays” — Ink Empire’s way to thank its loyal clientele, offering tattoos for $35.

“It started off where we would tattoo like 10 people a day,” Armstrong said. ‘We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s crazy.’ And now we tend to do probably 160 to 200 people every Monday… It’s a line out the door.”

The couple behind Ink Empire is from Killeen, Texas. About five years ago, they wanted a better chance of creating something they could call their own that would be successful. So, they took a leap of faith and moved to Austin where they built their empire — an ink empire that is.

Matilda Honey and Tracy Armstrong, owners of Ink Empire. (KXAN photos/Jala Washington).
Matilda Honey and Tracy Armstrong, owners of Ink Empire. (KXAN photos/Jala Washington).

On its block, Ink Empire is among a handful of Black-owned businesses. However, it has seen others in the neighborhood pushed out with new development and rising rent prices. 

In fact, right across the street from the shop, once-affordable units are currently being torn down and redeveloped.

Painting of late-rapper Nipsey Hustle on Ink Empire Tattoo building. (KXAN photos/Jala Washington)

Armstrong and Honey said they feel supported by their community even while some Black-owned businesses struggle to stay afloat in the changing Austin economy.

Honey said she feels like they’re bringing diverse and vibrant energy to Austin.

“Definitely morphing the industry… making people feel more loved and cared about in a shop,” Honey said.

Armstrong and Honey want to be a part of making Austin more diverse and uplift the community. They said one of their goals is to eventually buy the building they’re currently leasing when the opportunity presents itself.

The couple wants to be able to stay in their east Austin neighborhood.

Multicultural Reporter Jala Washington will be featuring Black-owned businesses that are nominated by community members through the end of Black History Month on Saturdays.

If there’s a business you’d like to nominate, send us an email at You can also reach out to Jala directly at