Tattoo Charlie’s on Baltimore’s Notorious Block!
Since Tattoo Charlie’s opened its doors in 1938 it has continuously provided quality professional tattooing services by Charlie Geizer (an icon in the tattoo industry). Charlie got his start in the tattoo industry in 1915 when as a youth he worked in traveling carnivals and circuses. In his own words “just natural” was the way Charlie learned to tattoo as he followed the old saw dust circuit. According to a News- American Article, Charlie tattooed as many as 100 sailors a day. In 1953 the Baltimore City health department passed new sanitation and licensing regulations. Due to the new regulations every tattoo shop in Baltimore except Tattoo Charlie’s disappeared, leaving Charlie’s to be the only shop for a number of years. Charlie was proud to have risen to the challenge while others moved on or gave up the trade.
In 1980 Charlie passed away. Dennis Watkins, Charlie’s protégé, took over the shop. Dennis already had opened his own shop in 1977 in Odenton with his young wife, Gale Watkins. He also taught the trade to her, and 35 years ago she became Maryland’s first female tattoo artist, an admirable accomplishment of her own. “Back in the day, people didn’t talk about tattooing. It was something you kept to yourself. But Tattoo Charlie opened up to Dennis, and shared everything he knew with him.” Mrs. Watkins said in the Capital Gazette. As a youth Dennis would watch Geizer work for as many hours as the older artist would let him stay. Eventually Charlie took Dennis on as an apprentice, and later as a business partner. Like “Tattoo Charlie,” Mr. Watkins was dedicated to seeing that his art was done right, safely and respectfully. Dennis passed away in March 2008 leaving his wife Gale in charge of the business.
Late June of this year the torch was passed on to Ami James and Sam Mirkin. It is their mission to preserve the history of Tattoo Charlie’s, America’s oldest continuously running tattoo shop that is still in its original location. There is a sense of pride, respect and tradition when you step into Tattoo Charlie’s. Perhaps it’s the vintage photos of tattooed men and women in display cases or the picture of Charlie himself in his older age. Whatever the reason maybe there is a comfort in knowing that you are in a space that has been cared for and held in regard for such a long time. Tattoo Charlie’s is not just a Baltimore landmark but a piece of American tattoo history.
Ami is a man of many hats, best known as a world class tattoo artist but also as the owner of Love Hate Tattoos, which the hit television series Miami Ink was based upon. After Miami Ink ended Ami opened a new tattoo studio named The Woo$ter Street Social Club which the television series NY Ink is based upon. NY Ink is currently airing on TLC and its series’ first season averaged 1.3 million viewers per episode. Additionally he owns ‘Love Hate Social Club’ in London, UK. Ami is involved in a number of other ventures including a jewelry line Love Hate Choppers Jewelry with Boston jeweler Larry Weymouth and he’s even teamed up with PETA in an ad for their “Ink Not Mink” campaign. Ami’s latest undertaking tattoodo.com is a unique new online tattoo design website. It will change how people view, search for and receive tattoo art on the internet.
Sam and Ami have known each other for over 20 years and have worked together on other projects. At the age of 25 Sam (a Baltimore native) created a company and trademarked it called Tattoo Brew. It was a tattoo themed beer line, which was so well received that Jim Beam purchased it from him. This confirmed to him that his innovative and creative ideas could be profitable at a young age. Sam has represented and worked with some of the best tattoo artists in the industry including Chris Nunez, Boog, Matt Rinks and Mike Giant. In the early 90’s Sam was one of the first people to manufacture body jewelry. He saw the unique need and niche for the new phenomenon and was able to capitalize upon it. His company Harm City did exceptionally well until the body jewelry industry became flooded by cheap overseas manufactures.
Ami and Sam have joined forces to preserve the rich history of this landmark. With this year being Tattoo Charlie’s 75th anniversary, there is no doubt that if Charlie were alive today that he would be proud of the dedication and quality standards which Ami and Sam will be sure to continue to deliver.