This story was written for Very Local by Kristy Locklin. You can follow her on Instagram here.
Richie Vomit was sick of living in Sioux City, Iowa.
In May, the award-winning tattoo artist and his family traveled 800 miles to make a fresh start in Pittsburgh.
Although he wasn’t familiar with a soul in the Steel City, Vomit, a diehard horror fan, knew Hollywood special effects artist Tom Savini called it home. It seemed like the perfect place to set up a spooky retail shop and tattoo studio. (For those new to the local horror scene, Tom Savini is a master at makeup and effects for movies. Savini worked closely with George Romero and lives in Pittsburgh.)
The Monster Mart is now open for business in Oakmont, and Savini, considered the “Godfather of Gore,” was one of its first customers.
“Horror is a big part of who I am, so Tom Savini has been a part of my life forever,” he says. “He’s either acted in or done the special effects for all of my favorite movies.”
From Sioux City, Iowa, to Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Inside 802 Allegheny River Blvd. – a local version of the store they ran in Iowa – Vomit and his wife Heidi sell action figures, masks, props, shirts and other creepy collectibles. Think of it as a year-round Spirit Halloween store with a punk rock attitude.
The couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Phoenix, painted a zombie-themed mural on the wall and sells her own brand of candles. They peddle their wares and commune with fellow fans at regional conventions such as Living Dead Weekend, Steel City Con and Hearsemania.
Visitors to The Monster Mark also can get inked by Vomit, who is known for his realistic portraits. The first floor of the space is filled with trophies and photographs dedicated to his career, which spans two decades. He makes his mark on approximately 900 people a year.
Some of his favorite pieces are tributes to horror icons such as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Pennywise, Elvira, George Romero and The Bride of Frankenstein.
As a kid, Vomit was introduced to the genre by his older brother, who organized a late-night screening of “The Shining.”
Stanley Kubrick’s classic was followed by “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” and “Dawn of the Dead,” which used Monroeville Mall as a backdrop. Savini worked his macabre magic on all three films.
Vomit’s love of monster cinema bled into his artwork. In addition to tattoo ink, he’s dabbled in oils, clay and music, playing in punk bands influenced by the Misfits.
From Monster Mart to horror movies
This fall, Vomit will take classes at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen, where Savini runs a special make-up effects program.
It’s been his lifelong dream to create on-screen nightmares.
His low-budget, directorial debut, a midwestern slasher called “Farmlands,” received rave reviews in Fangoria magazine.
With hopes to parlay the skills he learns at Savini’s school into his own line of horror masks, busts and props and, eventually, expand The Monster Mart into a year-round haunted house complete with thrill rides and an area where FX students can showcase their work.
It’s a way for him to say thank you to the warm welcome Pittsburghers have extended to his family.
“Everyone has been so nice and supportive,” Vomit says. “We feel right at home in Pittsburgh.”