Nokomis East Neighborhood Association



“Growing up 'white trash,' I never thought I would ever own my own home.” Metal Mike Welsh said in a thoughtful tone as if unaware he was also sitting in his own business. Looking around the Nokomis Tattoo (4933 S 34th Ave.), I slowly realized every inch of it had some sort of original detail that showed his depth of knowledge of Minnesota. He showed me two of his tattoos – one of Minnesota and one that said “Nokomis." I was so impressed by his knowledge of the area.
I have been intrigued by Nokomis Tattoo ever since I first saw it. It is the only tattoo parlor I’ve ever seen with a Little Free Library in front of it. What I didn’t realize was that Mike has worked with The Irreverent Bookstore, Grande Sunrise, Nokomis Surplus, and Nokomis Life for the last three years to ensure that the Little Free Library is always stocked with both Spanish books and English books, dog treats, and sometimes children’s toys.
There are two large murals on the side of his tattoo parlor. One of them proudly states “Nokomis MPLS.” The other is an artistic rendition of his two dogs and says “Nokomis Life." Underdog Rescue, a local dog rescue, often uses it to take photos of their dogs for people to adopt. I later found out Nokomis Tattoo also has a community space that multiple dog rescue groups, Makers Market, and an addiction recovery group use regularly. He even uses it to host his own events – such as TV showings and blood drives – along with other events that overall build the community. The Nokomis East Business Association Nokomis Days planning committee meets there each month. “We don’t care if it brings people in, we care if it gives back to the community,” Mike said about the community space. I was so impressed by how much he is willing to give back.
He is insistent that Nokomis is such a successful neighborhood because it allows businesses to “do their own thing." He pointed to the flowers in the front. He and his neighboring business petitioned to be able to mulch and plant their own flowers because it was the environmentally conscious thing to do. He then showed me his giant gardens in the back. He traded a guy a (tattoo) sleeve for five giant garden boxes. He hires a high schooler part-time to take care of them, then gives the fruits and vegetables away to people who need them. I would have never believed that watermelons grew behind a tattoo parlor. He then casually mentioned Nokomis Tattoo is also a CSA drop-off point. “I think we’re a wholesome tattoo shop... We’re not perfect, but the two receptionists and four tattoo artists come together and it’s as close to perfect as we would need it.” He never mentioned it, but his tattoo parlor also donates 5% of all profits to the community.
That is what struck me most about Mike. His humility. He made sure to introduce me to every tattoo artist and receptionist that walked through the door, and tell me a few kind things about each person as they started setting up the shop for the day. One tattoo artist in particular, Chris, started as a receptionist, but in Mike’s opinion, had been overlooked for most of his life. Chris spent years apprenticing under Mike. He started by having to solder needles together. To do this, one needs to lay seven needles perfectly on a piece of glass before using a soldering iron to melt them together. Chris described it as “going through hell on earth in a dark basement with little ventilation” for three to four months. Mike looked him dead in the eye and, in a grave tone, said that is when he knew Chris was serious about becoming a tattoo artist, and the training really began. “I did a lot of things in my life that I don’t know if I did the right thing or the wrong thing, but with Chris I know I did the right thing,” he said.
I never realized the amount of dedication it takes to become a tattoo artist, but it was easy to feel the pride in the room. Mike spoke about hardly being able to go out in public without people waving to him to say hi, and thanking him for their tattoos.
I don’t know what I’m getting for my next tattoo yet, but I know where I’m getting it.


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  • nokomistattoo

    Thank you again Tesha, Sarah, NENA, and The Messenger!!!

    Wednesday, July 5, 2023 Report this