His was the first tattoo parlor in Chula Vista when he opened in 1996.
Having finally decided to move, it only took him a single day to find a new home for Southbay Mike’s Blackwater Tattoo Parlor in the beach area.
“I wasn’t ever going to come to the beach, I had a neighborhood shop,” Mike said. But when he finally decided to leave he told his wife, “If I have to move one more time — I’m going to the beach. I’m just going to go big because my work is good enough. I’ve got enough clients.”
Mike just happened to be driving through OB when he saw a for lease/going out of business sign at 5003 Newport Ave. where The Black Bead had been. He got an interview with the landlord that very day.
“He liked me and said, ‘I just want to let you know, I was praying for tattoo,’” Mike said. “And here I am.”
Having started tattooing at age 14, Mike toured the world with San Diego-based P.O.D. punk band, tattooing and picking up tips from craft masters along the way.”
Tattoos date back many thousands of years with them having been found on mummified skin. The oldest evidence of human tattoos is believed to be from between 3370 BC and 3100 BC, with Otzi the Iceman, discovered in September 1991, who had tattoos.
Egypt’s international trade spread tattooing to Crete, Greece, and Arabia. There is a history of tattooing in ancient China, as well as among Celtic and northern European tribes, such as the Picts — literally "painted people” — and in Samoa and the Polynesian islands, where the word "tatou" originated.
“I just like it,” said Mike, who is heavily tattoed. “It’s like wearing your favorite shirt all the time.”
Of his work, Mike said: “I want it to look good. It’s your responsibility as a tattoo artist to make sure this lasts for life. With me, you’re getting a high-quality tattoo. All my ratings are five stars.
“It just really intrigued me and appealed to my rebel side,” said Mike of his love affair with tattooing, noting, “I’m from the old school. My teacher started in 1938. I’ve been doing it for 30 years.”
Why does he do it?
“The main part of it is passion,” Mike answered.
Unlike many tattoo artists, Mike charges by the work to be done, not by the hour. Skin is his canvas, and he takes his “penmanship" seriously. He’s trained himself to be fast and his long experience has helped. “I’m light-handed,” he said, adding, “I had 20 people a day in my first shop in the South Bay.”
Southbay Mike noted there are now about 600 tattoo parlors countywide, 30 in PB and nine in OB.
Recently, Mike had a person scheduled to work on coming in from Florida to do a full-arm sleeve. “We are doing it in one day,” he said. “We will start about 7 a.m., and we will get done about 8 p.m. Normally, it’s about a 60-hour job.”
Mike collaborates with his clients on their tattoo designs. But the end result is his interpretation of their basic ideas.
“I tattoo in all styles whether it’s portrait, black and gray, Japanese, American traditional, biomechanics, tribal: You name it,” said Mike. “I am a tattooer through and through.”
Mike consults with clients and takes a 20% deposit from them before he starts.
In the end, and most importantly, Mike said of his tattoo clients, “You want their experience to be fun.”
Southbay Mike’s Blackwater Tattoo Parlor
Where: 5003 Newport Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m. Sundays.