History

Ace Tattoo Co. holds the title for oldest operating tattoo shop in California.

The doors were first opened in downtown San Diego as Painless Nell's during the late 1940s by "Painless" Nell Bowen, a successful female artist that tattooed during and after World War II. The war caused a huge surge in the presence of sailors in San Diego, and Nell successfully ran five tattoo shops with her husband and sister working with her. At one point, she was arrested for not providing spittoons to her clients. Fortunately, spittoons are no longer mandatory, purely a luxury.

Painless Nell's changed ownership a few times after Nell passed away, and was eventually renamed Ace Tattoo. Ace was taken over by "Inker Ron" Howell in the early 1970s. He also opened The Inkers shop on Broadway Avenue in 1978. In 1987, redevelopment processes forced the shop out of its downtown home. The search for a new home brought Ace Tattoo to a beach front building in Ocean Beach with incredible views of the water and the sunsets, and we haven't budged since.

In 1991, ownership was passed to Gary Hoag. He and his current team of artists keep the shop alive with buzzing tattoo machines and happy customers, ensuring Nell's legacy stands strong. The artists in the shop specialize in all facets of tattooing, from bold traditional styles and delicate Japanese pieces to realistic nature portraits or black and gray styles. 

Through the years, Ace Tattoo has boasted such artists as Zeke Owens, Mike Malone, Dave Saleem, Ed Hardy, Inker Ron Howell, Buzz Panhead, Fip Buchanan, Freddy Negretti, and many more.

The shop was upgraded with a new look in 2014 to maintain a comfortable and clean environment for our customers. Come by and check out the shop, browse the portfolios, and meet the artists anytime.