Inside the intimate space, a plethora of unique illustrations hang on the light blue walls—a color that resembles the flag of his native Chicago. One corner of the shop is furnished with couches and a coffee table, reflecting off its glossy wood floors.
Tauch stated that some people find it stressful to walk into a tattoo shop first time. So when he thought about opening up his own shop, he wanted to create an environment where customers could visit and “feel at ease instead of anxiousness.”
The shop has found this method to be very successful. It was voted one of the top five tattoo shops in the Post’s “2022 Best of Long Beach” list, a title that’s earned through votes by community members.
“I’ve worked at a lot of different shops, and almost everyone that I worked for told me to never open a shop and that I’d hate it,” Tauch said. “But I felt like I was at a point in my career where I ready to do it.”
Tauch was born in Chicago’s northside. His sister was a gifted artist and encouraged Tauch to learn.
Tauch was inspired by Spawn’s illustrations about an antihero/superhero at a young age and the Japanese anime Dragonball Z. He soon created his own illustration style.
“I just knew that was going to be the route that I was going to take, especially because in high school, all my classes that I had that were art-related—I would always end up doing well in them,” Tauch said.
Tauch said that after high school, he attended Chicago’s American Academy of Art, where he was still close to some of his professors. Carla was also his partner.
Tauch spent his time in Chicago exploring different avenues. He also worked freelancing gigs, where he designed skateboard decks for a beer company.
While getting his own tattoos, he’d ask his artists questions about their style and how they performed certain techniques. “I was always planting the seeds,” Tauch said.
While walking through Chicago’s suburbs, he came upon a tattoo parlor and was struck by the artwork on the walls. At that moment, he thought, maybe tattooing would be something he’d be good at.
Finding a job opportunity in tattoo art proved difficult. First off, Tauch had to find an apprenticeship, but there wasn’t anyone taking applications at the time.
But Tauch persevered. He was aware of his strengths which led to him being offered to become a tattoo artist apprentice.
Ever since then, it’s been “full throttle” for Tauch’s tattoo career.
For a while, all was fine until Chicago began experiencing a “Snowpocalypse” in 2011, where record-breaking winters hit the city for four years, Tauch said.
“If you look at pictures, it looks like the movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow,” Tauch said. “Every winter was the worst winter I’d ever had.”
Tauch decided that it was time for him to move after one particular incident. He had to rush to a meeting with a client after a blizzard struck Chicago.
His car was snowed-in, and he was forced to walk 2 m in heavy snow to make it to the station on time.
Tauch and his spouse moved to Long Beach in 2015
“There was something that was very Chicago about Long Beach,” Tauch said. “Chicago and Long Beach have a very strong community and a hometown vibe kind of thing.”
After Tauch had found the perfect location in Bixbyknolls, Breakwater Tattoo was open for business in 2019.
Soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, affecting businesses like Tauch’s, which had to close for months at a time amid restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.
Tauch applied for grants during this period and created artwork for customers to help the shop survive. Tauch also visited states like Montana that have more relaxed COVID-19 restrictions to help with guest spots.
“We had everything working against us,” Tauch said. “… but we thought, ‘We’re making the best of it. This isn’t going to last forever.’”
Breakwater Tattoo was able to reintroduce its services to the community in January 2021 after restrictions had been lifted that prevented tattoo shops being opened.
Tauch stated that his artists have been booked up to three to six month in advance.
“We’re here to stay,” Tauch said. “People in Long Beach have a genuine appreciation for each other and they’re very supportive of local businesses.”
On Nov. 13, Breakwater Tattoo celebrated its three-year anniversary with a “Flash Day,” where clients got to pick from a sheet of pre-drawn illustrations to get tattooed.
Customers arrived early at the shop and waited patiently in a long line to get to the front of the shop. Some customers who had just finished getting tattoos waited in line to be able to get another one.
“One of my favorite aspects of tattooing is getting to know my clients,” Tauch said. “This is a dream come true for me.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated with different photo of a tattoo by Justin Tauch.