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Buffalo tattoo shop goes viral on TikTok with its 'gumball tattoos'

Cody Stephan started doing the tattoos as a promotion for his business, Omen Ink. When he put it on TikTok, it got millions of views and likes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Cody Stephan has been drawing since he was 4 but didn't turn his passion into a career until he realized the medical field wasn't for him.

"I was planning on doing tattooing to pay for college and becoming a brain surgeon," Stephan said. "I just didn't know if I wanted to be in school that long."

He's been a tattoo artist for 10 years, finally opening his own shop Omen Ink on Delaware Avenue in December. 

Little did he expect a gumball machine to be the biggest draw for customers. 

A little over a week ago, Cody's friend told him he should post his "gumball tattoo" promotion on Tik Tok and the videos are blowing up with millions of views and likes. 

Here's how the gumball tattoo works. 

You pay $50 for the token and then whatever tattoo that comes out of the gumball machine is the free one you'll get. 

"Some of them are original, some of them aren't," Stephan said. 

You can roll up to two more times but it'll cost you $100 if you do more. 

"I'd say about 75 percent just go with the one roll," Stephan said.  "We want to make it fair for everyone so they don't get all the golden gumballs out of the machine."

If you get a golden gumball, you get a $500 tattoo for free of anything you'd like.

People can't seem to get enough, coming from across New York State, Pennsylvania and even Michigan just to get one.

"I like the randomness, not knowing what I'm going to get beforehand. Almost like adrenaline, like I'm planning this tattoo but I'm not actually planning it," said Taylor Kurnik, who got a gumball tattoo of Bart Simpson doing ballet. 

Omen Ink has quickly become a destination in Buffalo. 

"I expected three or four extra customers a month and yesterday, I had 17 people come in," Stephan said. "It's kind of mind-blowing and it's very humbling." 

Stephan just hopes it doesn't stop, so he can open more shops around the states. 

"That's the dream. I've got a long way to go but I feel like this little guy here kind of opened up the door," Stephan said. 

Sometimes all you need is the right machine to get the ball rolling.

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