Woman-owned Bee Inked Tattoo Parlor opens in Yorktown Heights

Gianna Caranfa got a second chance at life and she’s not letting it go to waste. 

At two years old, the now 28-year-old Yorktown native and Lakeland High School alumna was diagnosed with a rare brain stem tumor. After doctors turned her family away, feeling they could not operate on her, Caranfa’s life was saved by Dr. Fred Epstein at NYU Hospital in Manhattan. Epstein came up with an inventive surgical procedure that removed 80% of her tumor, with the hope that the remainder would disappear on its own.

When the family’s insurance carrier denied coverage for the procedure — which could have left Caranfa paralyzed — Epstein did the surgery, for free.

“Miracles happen and I slowly regained the ability to live a normal life. I only have nerve damage on my left side, so that’s where I get all my tattoos,” said Caranfa, who is right handed. “I always wanted to pursue something that I love and make a difference for people since Dr. Epstein made a difference for me.” 

Epstein died in 2006 due to melanoma. 

So Caranfa set out to follow her dreams and pursue her passions by opening Bee Inked Tattoo Parlor in Yorktown. 

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Gianna Caranfa, is pictured in her new tattoo parlor called Bee Inked Tattoo Parlor in Yorktown Heights, Aug. 3, 2021.

Woman-owned

Caranfa is one of few female tattoo shop owners. 

“It’s definitely a male-run industry,” Caranfa said. “And in the beginning, it’s hard for women to make it. (Women in the industry) have all gone through these hardships, where women are the underdogs and right now is a time where we’re showing that we can do this.” 

The parlor, located in the Triangle Center in Yorktown, looks more like a living room than a stereotypical tattoo parlor. Portraits of woodland creatures greet customers upon entering, while a black couch sits invitingly front and center. Beyond the neon light reading “Bee Inked,” is a mural of a bee with geometric shapes around it. 

Each “canvas” — a term used to describe someone getting a tattoo — is brought to a private room for their sessions to add to the comfort. 

The welcome area at Bee Inked Tattoo Parlor in Yorktown Heights, Aug. 3, 2021.

“It’s nerve-racking to get a tattoo, especially something meaningful,” Caranfa said. “You’re vulnerable and sometimes you have to get half naked. So I wanted to create a place that was calming and not anxiety-filled so everyone feels safe and happy.” 

“A lot of tattoo shops have this stigma of being grungy boys club kind of places and tattooing has come so far from the stereotypical biker gang,” Caranfa continued. “I wanted a tattoo parlor that felt safe for myself and the community. You’re a walking canvas, a walking art museum.” 

As for the name, Caranfa says her love of puns helped in that department. 

“I love puns, if you look at my Instagram the titles under my tattoos are usually puns,” Caranfa said. “Come ‘bee’ inked by me and it’ll only sting a little.” 

One of the work rooms at Bee Inked Tattoo Parlor in Yorktown Heights, Aug. 3, 2021.

Giving back

Caranfa originally attended SUNY Purchase to become a special education arts teacher, but as she puts it, fate has a way of stepping in and she found her calling was in the world of tattoos. She began an apprenticeship in 2017.

“There was one sentence that a professor of mine said to me,” Caranfa said. “Professor Philip Listengart (a SUNY Purchase associate professor emeritus of art and design) told me that only 4% of art students pursue an art career, it’s rare for people to pursue their passions. So I’m really happy I kept his words in my heart and I’m proud to be in that small percent who actually make it a career.” 

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