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Outer Limits: The United States’ Oldest Tattoo Shop

outer limits tattoo shop, original bert grimm sign and tattoo neon sign - photo by the tattoo journalist

Kari Barba (1960–) is a distinguished, award-winning tattoo artist with more than four decades of expertise in the industry. She is a co-owner of Outer Limits Tattoo & Museum, the oldest continually functioning tattoo studio in the United States and the second-oldest in the world. This establishment was founded in 1927 by an unidentified person as a photography studio with traces of tattooing. In 1954, American tattoo pioneer and photographer Bert Grimm acquired it. Grimm (1900–1985) is regarded as one of the kings of American tattooing; among his apprentices were Bob Shaw (1926–1993; innovative in flash art and lettering) and Lyle Tuttle (1931–2019, resulting in the father of modern tattooing). Bob Shaw bought the same store from Bert Grimm in 1969, and in 2002, Kari Barba became the proprietor of this business at 22 S. Chestnut Place in Long Beach’s formerly historic The Pike district. Currently in viewing are forefathers’ flashes and acetate stencils, an original Grimm shop sign (circa the 1950s/60s), items donated by Rick Walters and the Natural History Museum, and photographs of Ed Hardy (1945–) and Bob Roberts (1946–2022), vintage tattoo equipment, and more. What a time capsule! Artifacts discovered hidden in the building’s walls are also on display—all in all, a must-see for any tattoo enthusiast.

vintage tattoo photos at the outer limits tattoo shop and museum - photo by the tattoo journalist
original tattoo flash, history, outerlimits - photo by the tattoo journalist
Tattoo artist kari barba in studio  - photo by the tattoo journalist
A rick walters jacket donated to outer limits. Embroidery of Bert grimms famous tattoo studio  - photo by the tattoo journalist
tattoo legend kari barba inking client  - photo by the tattoo journalist
original bert grimms tattoo shop sign  - photo by the tattoo journalist
original cashier machine from old tattoo studio and tattoo acetates  - photo by the tattoo journalist
close up of the original bert grimm sign  - photo by the tattoo journalist
the current long beach tattoo shop and museum, outer limits  - photo by the tattoo journalist
Left to right: Adriana (The Tattoo Journalist), and Kari Barba, Tattoo icon and co-owner of Outer Limits.
Left to right: Adriana (The Tattoo Journalist), and Kari Barba, Tattoo icon and co-owner of Outer Limits.
All studio photos and of Kari Barba © The Tattoo Journalist, Scene360 
Last photo, portrait of The Tattoo Journalist and Kari Barba by Matt Hand