I like tattoos. Hell, I have seven tattoos and one branding…don’t ask. The art people choose to place on their bodies ranges from the mundane, like Japanese words that may not mean exactly what one thinks, to full body pieces that tell a story or trance family events.
I’ve seen memorials to family members who have passed away, to tattoos that cover one’s military service or prison time. I’ve seen some amazing work.
Tattooing is nothing new. Archaeologists have uncovered tattooing tools in France, Portugal and Scandinavia dating back at least 12,000 years. There was the discovery of the Otzi Iceman, from the 4th or 5th century BC, with tattoos that were still intact.
The Celtic tribes had tattoos, the Germanic tribes – the list can go on forever. It’s safe to say that tattoos have been know to every era of human history.
There was a time, not too long ago, where it was rare to see anyone with a tattoo. By and large, tattoos were something sailors, and the ‘lower classes’ would have. You wouldn’t find them on the owner of a business, the pastor at your church, or your kids’ teacher. They were found only in the outer edges of society, and very rarely in mainstream society.
Today, you can find tattoos in every walk of life. I’ve seen doctors, lawyers, business owners and more with tattoos. In almost any large gathering of people, it seems that those without tattoos are becoming the minority.
In El Paso, there are no shortage of Tattoo shops; they are all over town. But there is one that I came across that’s unique – in location, setting and execution.
The shop, the artist, they work they do on skin or canvas, it all combines into something amazing. I’m talking about Golden Goose Tattoo.
When I found this shop, I wasn’t in the market for my next tattoo. I was walking around downtown, checking out the businesses that are going to be located near the new Abundant Living Faith Center.
Golden Goose Tattoo is not what I expected of a tattoo shop in Downtown El Paso.
It’s not even close to the dingy, backroom shop where I received my first tattoo. Nope. Golden Goose is an open, inviting shop that draws you and focuses your eyes on the art that lines the walls. It’s a combination of tattoo shop and art gallery.
Yet, I had to know, why would anyone open a tattoo shop Downtown. For answers, I sat down with Fabian Cobos, the owner of Golden Goose.
“Well, I had the idea a few years ago, and when I had the idea, it didn’t seem like it would work. The investment, the ball stadium wasn’t here yet. There was no major investment going on. It was pretty much a ghost town, so I opened up on Mesa Street but always had my eye on Downtown,” said Fabian.
But, once the stadium started going up, and more money was being spent to revitalize the area, the time was right to make that move from Mesa Street to Downtown. Moving was easier said than done. The social sigma I mentioned earlier was was evident in just setting up shop.
“It was hard to rent a place. I mean, there’s a certain companies, I won’t mention a name, that it’s a longstanding policy that they won’t work with Tattoo shops and I can understand why, to an extent,” says Fabian. “I mean, some of my forefathers in the industry weren’t, probably the most upstanding citizens. So, it had a bad rap.”
But, he persisted and views changed over time.
“Today that stigma’s gone away a lot. I know grandmothers that are fans of tattoo shows…it’s been accepted a lot more,” says Fabian. “But opening up, it was still a little shaky even up to about four years ago…I had a few landlords hang up the phone on me the minute I said ‘tattoo’ and didn’t want to deal with us. And, I heard from someone in downtown management that even one of the main people for a rental company here, they were having lunch and even laughed.”
That made me laugh. I wasn’t laughing that a tattoo shop was having such a hard time opening up in Downtown El Paso. What made me laugh was that at one point there was a adult bookstore, a porn shop, on the same block as Golden Goose, years ago. Yet, a tattoo shop was making people stress? I just didn’t get it.
“And he was saying, ‘did you hear there’s a tattoo shop looking at prime real estate downtown?’” says Fabian, recalling the conversation between that one property owner and a city employee. “And, he’s a big supporter of ours, the guy from the city. And he was like, ‘well, yeah, actually we need them to come down here. You’re doing this at this a disservice by not allowing them to, to look at some of these places.’ Ended up being a blessing in disguise because we came across Gil, my landlord here and great guy and saw the shop that I had on Mesa and he was like, yeah, you guys would do great downtown.”
Moving downtown wasn’t easy. There were going to be challenges, and Cobos knew that going in.
“The biggest obstacle was I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew I was moving down here and that the growth was still had to happen. So, I knew it was going be right in the middle of it. The street closures have been really hard. I mean on Mesa I had a huge parking lot in front of my shop, that’s something we sacrificed. I’m real happy with the way the shop came out and the support that we’ve had, but the construction, the street closures. I mean, the traffic still doesn’t flow in front of my shop,” says Fabian.
As things stand, the road in front of his shop, South El Paso Street, is closed to through traffic. Just one block over there is construction on a new parking garage on one side and the hotel renovations on the other.
With no one walking by the shop, it has influenced business.
Then, the closing of Tricky Falls hasn’t helped much. Before, when the queue for a show was wrapped around the block, there would be people who would get work done before, or after a concert. That closure has had direct effect not only on Golden Goose Tattoo but other Downtown businesses as well.
“There’s a lot of people; I know a lot of El Pasoans, who are just clueless about downtown. Never come down here; only come down here to get tattooed now. And even our military clientele, which we have a lot, and they were really clueless about downtown. So they come, and then now they start bringing their wives to come do some shopping and the kids,” Fabian shared.
“I think what we’ve been doing a pretty good job of bringing people, especially our clientele here to downtown so they can experience it. But I think what’s really going to help is when everything comes together, when they finish that children’s museum, when they finish the arena, once all the growth comes and El Pasoans start getting more exposure to their own downtown, I think that’s what’s really going to benefit everyone”
Golden Goose Tattoo is one of those gems we have here in El Paso that will surprise you. Even if you’re not looking to get a tat, why not give them a visit. There is some amazing art on the wall, created by the artists working at Golden Goose.
There is an atmosphere that is laid back, totally chill and is conducive to catching a good vibe that will last the whole day.