Books + Ink

Every tattoo tells a story
Local tattoo artist gives back with fundraiser for library

Walk into Certified Tattoo Studios on South Broadway on any day of the week, and you’ll find a family-friendly, high-energy vibe and staff eager to provide an amazing customer experience.

With charisma, drive and outrageous talent, owner Nando Mondragon sets the tone. And the bar is high. One of his goals is to change people’s perceptions about the art of tattooing.  He also envisions a better city and community; he and his wife Raya are doing their part to lead the change.

Along with several other tattoo artists, Nando and Raya will be at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library, Sunday, Aug. 5, 1-5 p.m., to raise funds for the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation.

“We want to give back to our community,” he says, with a smile and undeniable confidence.

Their vision is for a better world, and they believe they can do that through their artistry.

Nando’s team of artists will offer literary-themed tattoos and have created several designs from which to choose. Nando—whose artistic skills are in demand with those in-the-know—is donating the profits to the library, which has a special place in his heart.

The successful business owner recalls his days as a kid spent at the Athmar Park Branch Library in southwest Denver. “I was a bookworm and loved the library.”

He spent hours learning to draw at the library after his dad would drop him off. Nando readily shares that his days growing up were not trouble-free. 

“I did graffiti around town,” he says, “and a lot of it wasn’t legal.” 

Incarcerated at the age of 18, these days the 35-year-old entrepreneur has turned his life around and says it’s a priority to give back to the city and state he loves, adding that if he can help any kids avoid the mistakes he made, all the better.

With 40,000 followers on Facebook, a thriving business that has grown from a 500-square-foot space to three Denver locations totaling 10,000 feet, and a commitment to doing the right thing, there is little question that Nando will achieve what he sets out to do.

The library and the Friends Foundation are delighted about what some may consider a surprising partnership. But, there are more similarities between the library and a tattoo business than what one might imagine at first glance.

Certified’s website reads, “Anyone with skin is welcome here.” At the library, posters and T-shirts publicize the philosophy, “Free and Equal Access for all.” 

Nando and Raya stand firm in their mission to break down stereotypes about who gets a tattoo and to make the world a better place.

If their success so far is any indication, there is little doubt they will accomplish their goals. 

It all begins with one tattoo, one story, one good deed. 

Please note: the tattoo options available at the Books + Ink Fundraiser are listed below.

Written by ChrisH on July 25, 2018