Artists featured in this article
Angel Marquez
Dustin Quillen
Take Markus Ruegsegger and his wife Julie Ruegsegger, for instance. Both have ink, but Julie started her collection years ago.

At last count, I have 38 random tattoos. I gave myself my first tattoo when I was 15 in some kid’s backyard. I didn’t understand the value of finding a good artist at the time, but my tattoos tell the story of my life, that one included. That’s how my tattoo story started, but Markus’ is a little different.

Born and raised in Switzerland, Markus didn’t get his first tattoo until recently.

I’m 50 years old and I got my first tattoo six months ago. I never wanted one. When I started dating my wife 13 years ago, she already had 25 and I still thought I’d never get one. The only time I’d considered it was when my buddy got “Life is good” tattooed, something we always say together. I thought maybe I’d get that one day, but never followed through.

That all changed after the couple stumbled upon Hart & Huntington in Nashville, TN.

We were looking for a tattoo shop for Julie because she wanted to get some more ink done that day. We ended up walking in and out of a random shop because right across the street was Hart & Huntington. It was clean, nice. Unlike any of the other places we’d stopped into.

It only took a few minutes to change Markus’ perspective.

Julie ended up getting two tattoos from H&H that day. The whole experience watching her made me feel really comfortable.

It’s such a nice store. Everything is perfect and everyone is so welcoming. I decided then and there that I’d come back to get my first tattoo in a couple of months once I had some time to think about what I wanted.

Two months later, he returned to the shop to get his first piece: a Viking shield and battle axes.

I’ve always been interested in the Vikings and their stories, so I just decided I was going to do it, to get a Viking tattoo. Nobody believed me when I said it at the time!

Markus now has four Viking tattoos on the same arm, all by H&H artists.

I got a big wolf with bright blue eyes and beautiful trees behind it. I love it. That was Thursday. Friday I went back and got another one!

Anyone who’s got a tattoo before knows it’s easy to get hooked. Once you get one tattoo you love, you want more. That’s how it’s become for Markus, but that’s how it’s always been for Julie.

What attracted me to tattoos in the first place was the idea of being able to tell people my story, who I am. Like when I was riding a Harley, I thought I was cool and wanted everyone to know it, so I got a Harley tattoo. When my brother died, I wanted to memorialize him, so I got a tattoo for him. I’m an open book, so I like to tell people about myself in that way.

Tattoos have the unique ability to tell someone’s story in one of the most creative and permanent ways possible, which is why choosing the right artist matters. For Markus, that artist is Dustin. And Angel.

Dustin is my guy. He does all my Viking stuff. Until I saw Julie get a mermaid done by Angel, and now he’s also my guy! So is the manager, Yasir. My wolf is just unbelievable. The blue eyes are amazing.

The only way to ensure you’re going to leave a shop with a tattoo you love is by choosing an artist who’s skilled, but also one you can trust. Who has your best interest at heart.

Julie knows this firsthand.

I’d tell anyone getting their first tattoo not to go cheap. Make sure the artist is extremely aware of what you want, what’s most important to you, and demand it from them. If you don’t get what you like, you’re not going to be happy for the rest of your life. If there’s even just one small factor that’s missing for you, forget it. You’ll never be in love with it and you won’t go back.

That’s what made Julie (and Markus) choose H&H to begin with.

The deciding factor for choosing Hart & Huntington was that they’re so welcoming and really take their time. It was the trust and respect that they showed us. We felt heard and important. I’ve had a lot of tattoos, and most of the places that gave me them just rushed through the process, but at H&H, they really contemplate your tattoo choice. Like Anya, I love her. She always asks me what I like about a sketch, what I want to keep, what I want to change. Dustin takes his time on line work so that it always comes out absolutely perfect. I trust him totally. He's done four of my tattoos and I love them all. Especially my Viking ship.

And that’s not all.

Most importantly, it’s clean environment. It’s not like you’re in some back-alley shop with buzzing neon signs. Everyone at Hart & Huntington makes you feel respected and in good hands. They’re good people.

Now that they’re regulars, Markus and Julie feel at home at the Nashville shop.

When we came back the second time, it’s like we were family. Everyone at the shop hugged us hello and goodbye. We’ve become friends, for sure. Dustin congratulated us on our wedding, asked me how my business trip was, which we’d mentioned during our first sitting. It was really cool that he remembered. Anya sent me an email before my last appointment to say she can’t wait to see me. Last weekend, they had one of the artists visiting from the H&H Orlando shop, and even he made us feel like we’d known him for years. Really, the whole team is great.

It’s no surprise the couple has plans to add more to their growing collections.

I still want to get Dustin to fill in the blanks on my right arm, sleeve it out. Markus has a whole empty arm, but already has two planned for Dustin and Angel. Angel’s work is ridiculous. It is so en pointe. He does great statue work. And everything Dustin does on Markus looks 3D. People always think it’s a special ink because his shading is so lifelike!

Even though Julie has a head start, Markus is determined to catch up.

But I’m 6’6” so I have more room to work with than my wife. She’s only 5 feet tall!

But that won’t deter him. Neither will the fact that he almost passed out during his first sitting, something Julie found particularly funny.

Now the guys at H&H always have a nice supply of Monster Energy drinks and DumDum suckers for him. All the artists were super professional, told him to take a minute when he needed one, that it was no problem.

Going the extra mile can make all the difference.

They play awesome music in the shop and always have a good movie or sporting event on the TV so you can focus on that, distract you from the needle.

Beyond creature comforts, it’s about talent.

If someone told me they were considering going to H&H, I’d assure them they wouldn’t be disappointed. Every artist has their own style and all of them are SO good. It sounds like we’re in love with them and honestly, we are!

Markus’ buddy is planning a visit from Switzerland in a few weeks’ time. Markus already has plans to take him to H&H so they can get their next tattoos together.

I’m going to get me a big one done, all upper arm. Got to make sure the guys have time for that!

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