Mothership Tattoo, located in Pismo Beach, is one of three parlors in the beachside town. The interior resembles that of a carnival fun house, with bright colors and knick-knacks lining the walls. Kelly Cooper – Mustang Daily.

College presents many opportunities to try things for the first time, such as living without the watchful eye of parents or doing a keg stand. Some students, however, choose to mark their freedom with a new piercing or tattoo. If you’re considering getting some diamond studs to impress your buddies or perhaps want to permanently engrave the name of your significant other on your wrist, these local parlors can get the job done.

Traditional Tattoo

Taking its name to heart, this local parlor began a tradition of its own six years ago — to gain attention from the college crowd. The Week of Welcome (WOW) special — featuring $20 piercings — draws in dozens of students looking for new hardware. Tattooer and manager, Louie Campopiano, said that it was a way for the then-small business to create some buzz in the community.

“We came up with this as an idea to totally get people’s attention,” Campopiano said. “We decided to do something that you couldn’t ignore — and $20 piercings really got everyone excited.”

Campopiano said that WOW is an exciting and busy time for the company, which now has three locations: two in San Luis Obispo and one in Pismo Beach.

“You get an influx of a whole lot of people who are off to college and by themselves for the first time,” he said. “The energy that you get from all these new people coming into town — it’s pretty fun. It’s just a fun week to do things.”

The Foothill Boulevard location, tucked between Domino’s Pizza and Pita Pit, is clean and relaxed with green and purple walls lined with artists’ work. Front desk attendant, Blake Strait, said that he likes the cleanliness of the parlor as well as the friendly tattoo artists.

“Down south, there’s a lot of tattoo shops you don’t want to go into because of bicycle gangs or super sketchy people; you’re wondering if everything is clean. In here, it’s more just quirky people who like to have a good time and take their jobs seriously,” Strait said.

Store hours at all three locations are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Central Coast Tattoo

One of the area’s oldest tattoo and piercing parlors can be found up Highway 1 in the beach town of Morro Bay. Central Coast Tattoo has been in business for 17 years and covers everything from bellybutton piercings to gut-wrenching, bloody artwork. Owner and Master Artist Chrys Young, recalls one gruesome tattoo that frightened a passerby.

“One guy, he came in, he just graduated, and he wanted his Greek letters tattooed on his chest and he wanted them to look like he had carved them in with a knife in the mirror — so the dripping blood, the open skin, and everything,” Young said. “I did that for him and he walked out and some lady almost passed out — she thought it was real.”

Despite the gory tattoo requests, the quaint shop is small yet comfortable, and, contrary to the typical male-dominated tattoo industry, employs four females.

Central Coast Tattoo also draws its uniqueness from being the headquarters of Blood Borne Pathogen Prevention Training Institute of America, of which Young is the founder. The institute focuses on body art safety, and will soon be incorporated into state law next year.

“We teach body art safety (nationwide) and worldwide; it’s a safety issue,” Young said. “It’s nice because we’re a tiny little shop, but we have world-wide recognition.”

For being 10 minutes down the road from Cal Poly, the parlor still gets its fix of college students. Young said the most popular requests are kanji characters (modern Japanese writing of Chinese characters), hibiscus flowers and ocean-themed designs. Sometimes, she said, students who come in with a friend end up getting inked themselves.

“I’ve had groups of them all come in – all the guys at once and all the girls at once,” Young said.” If one comes in and gets a tattoo and brings an entourage of four, by the time they’re done, they all get them done. It’s a bonding experience for a lot of people.”

Store hours for the shop are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sundays and Mondays are by appointment only.

Mothership Tattoo

One of the three Pismo Beach parlors, the 14-year-old Mothership Tattoo resembles a carnival funhouse. The shop features an abundance of body artwork lining the bright blue walls and a colorful “Enter” and “Exit” gate separating the lobby from the parlor. Packed with little knickknacks and bumper stickers, this unique shop offers both tattoos and piercings.

Piercer Clay Allen, who has been in the industry for seven years, said he enjoys the professional atmosphere of Mothership.

“For an atmosphere that can be a really relaxed one, it’s nice to see people who are still professional,” Allen said. “I’ve worked in a lot of different shops in this county, and this is one of the shops I feel most comfortable at.”

Allen said that the shop doesn’t see a large college population, but it does get the occasional Cuesta or Cal Poly student for piercings.

“Last week I had a group that came in from Cuesta, and all came in and got their septums done for the bulldog look,” Allen said. “That was fun.”

Despite the small amount of Cal Poly customers, Allen does recall one anecdote from a college student in Colorado.

“This guy got the world’s smallest tattoo on his wrist, he stands up and is talking to the tattooer and going over the price and he’s drinking water, and he just stops for a minute, and passes out – falls right back into the chair,” Allen said. “Doesn’t spill a drip of his water and then he pisses himself. A few minutes later he’s like, ‘What happened, why am I wet?’ And we said, ‘Don’t get up just yet, don’t worry about it… No judgment whatsoever…’ It was more embarrassing for him.”

Mothership opens everyday at 12 p.m. and is located at 751 Dolliver St.

Tiger Rose Tattoo

A little farther down Dolliver Street, about a block-and-a-half away from Mothership Tattoo, is Tiger Rose Tattoo. Like Mothership, Tiger Rose doesn’t receive very many college-aged customers. Tattooer Brent Wilson, who has been in the business for five years, said the shop’s clients mainly come from out of town.

“We mainly get people from the valley,” Wilson said. “A lot of Bakersfield people, people from Fresno.”

The shop, in its tenth year in business, mainly specializes in traditional American artwork, such as skulls, roses, pin-ups and more. However, Wilson said that the shop always welcomes walk-ins.

“We pretty much do anything that walk-ins (would like), even though there’s other things we prefer to do, like American traditional,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the shop is unique because of the good word spread by satisfied customers.

“It’s been here for awhile — it has a good reputation,” Wilson said.

Store hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. everyday.

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