A tattoo memorializes a moment, place, time or person. It can also be a symbol of reinvention and starting anew, which is exactly what the new owner of Ventura’s most notorious tattoo parlor hopes to do.
He’s known as Bull, but the new proprietor of Ventura’s oldest tattoo business — The Ink House — sits as serenely as Ferdinand in the parlor’s renovated waiting room. Terry Bull, 48, takes his time searching for the right words to describe the rebirth of the Ink House and his own career.
“This is a part of Ventura history. It’s worth trying to save,” says Bull, who moved to Ventura from Sydney, Australia, more than 20 years ago. “It is also me, reinventing myself.”
The Ink House has been in business for 35 years and was previously owned by George Christie Jr., longtime Ventura resident and former president of the Ventura County Chapter of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. Christie inherited the business in 1978 from a man named Scurvy George and operated the parlor off Ventura Avenue, where it was known as Ventura Tattoo, until 1990. Christie then moved the shop to its present location at 614 E. Main St., changed its name and has since been grandfathered by the city as the only tattoo shop allowed in the downtown district.
“Tattooing began as this obscure type of business to, as you can see now, at least a dozen shops (in Ventura),” says Christie. “Now it’s featured on reality TV shows and it’s a booming industry.”
Intermittently throughout the past two decades, however, The Ink House became informally associated as a Hell’s Angels hangout, among other things, and in 2011 Christie was arrested and accused by the Feds of allegedly conspiring to firebomb rival Ventura ink parlors in 2007. Christie eventually walked free on a plea deal.
Christie sold The Ink House to Bull, a longtime friend, back in January.
“I love art and I wanted to do something new with my life,” says Bull, who has been working in the construction industry for the past two decades.
Bull has since been busy at work reshaping the parlor’s identity inside and out.
The interior has been cosmetically renovated to project more of a swank gallery feel, with new floors and an adjacent reading room. Bull has hired a new crew of tattoo artists who he says are currently working on introducing a Last Friday paint-on-canvas live art exhibition within the shop.
“It’s more approachable now to everybody, instead of a certain clientele,” says Bull. In the past few weeks, Bull has seen all walks of life come in for ink, but none more so than women.
“The demographic is 60 percent female at the moment,” says Bull. “We had some ladies from Ojai in their mid-60s come in a few weeks ago for tattoos. I’m not so sure that was the case before.”
While Bull has yet to memorialize anything on his own body with a tattoo, he knows The Ink House is a memorial in itself.
“Love it or hate it,” Bull says, “it’s a part of Ventura history and it’s worth carrying on.”
For more information about The Ink House, visit www.inkhouseventura.com.