Ink runs in the blood of the Hawaiian-born tattoo enthusiast who got her first tattoo at 13.
My brother is 15 years older than me. He's always had Traditional Hawaiian Tattoos, and so did my cousins. Growing up, I never really liked the look of the Traditional Hawaiian Tattoos. But when I was 12, my older sister got this cute little Tribal Dragon Tattoo on her leg, and I was so jealous. From then on, I wanted to get a tattoo so badly.
Just one year later, Nito had her tattoo.
Truth be told, when I was 13, I got a really, really hideous tattoo on my back. It was a band logo, and one of my friends did it in our kitchen. It was so bad.
PSA to all the young readers out there. Wait til you're grown to get your first tattoo.
Since I was only 13, I wasn't even 5 feet tall yet. So, when I grew a little, it stretched out slightly. It was awful!
But Nito couldn't help herself. Seeing her older siblings getting tattoos had Nito feeling left out.
So I was like, this is my time to shine. This is the one I'm getting, and no one is going to change my mind.
Nito spent her childhood going back and forth between Hawaii and Las Vegas. But, it was Vegas that really sparked her love of tattoos.
Back in Hawaii, I never really stepped foot in a tattoo shop. It wasn't until I started coming to the mainland that I started going to them.
But once she did, she was hooked.
I really enjoyed the people inside the tattoo shops. The environment was so different from a typical, boring office job. Everyone always seemed to be having a good day, joking around with each other. I knew then that I wanted to have that job later in my life.
I wanted to have fun. I wanted to get things done. But I also wanted to be really good at it as well. Plus, seeing how people in the shops looked at their tattoos inspired me to get as many as I could.
But don’t judge a book by its cover. Throw away any stereotypes that you have about people with tattoos.
Just because you have tattoos doesn't mean you're in a motorcycle gang or are a drug dealer.
Especially at Hart & Huntington—which is a horse of another color.
Our store manager BJ and I were joking about working in other tattoo shops years ago. You’d never know what you might come across in the artists’ stations—things like weapons, illegal substances…whatever shady things they were into. But the tattoo industry has really evolved. From the clients who get tattoos to the artists, things are changing. Now, if we walk past an artist’s station, especially here at H&H, you'll find fun things like Pokemon cards.
That's not the only difference Nito noticed about Hart & Huntington.
As soon as I came in for my interview, I was surprised that everyone seemed so friendly. You could tell they all had great relationships and were having a good time.
That's one of the things she loves the most about H&H.
Honestly, the most enjoyable aspect of working at H&H is the people that work here. And the people that walk into the shop. They are so excited to be here. And I never got that at the other tattoo shop where I worked.
Nito will tell you it's cheesy and cliché, but they are one big family. A family she's glad to be a part of.
At the other tattoo shops where I worked for 5 years, everyone was on their phones. They kept to themselves. At H&H, when it's slow, and things are done, the artists will come to the front of the shop, and everybody starts talking and having a great time. It honestly feels like you're just hanging out with friends. It's my second home.
The artists aren't the only ones who feel the special vibe at H&H. Clients pick up on the positive environment and welcoming energy, which keeps them coming back.
When someone comes in to get a tattoo, it's not like, 'Oh, here's your design. Go on back.' It's a great experience from the time they schedule a consultation. The front staff does a great job of helping clients get exactly what they want. The artists will call me over to talk to their clients when they're in the chair. It's the whole experience from walking in the door, sitting down in the chair, and leaving thinking, 'This is the one!'
I always want people to feel like H&H is the place they can return to.
And that's definitely happened a couple of times. I can tell by how excited someone is to run to the front desk and say, 'Look! I got it done; thank you so much!' And for me, that's really rewarding.
Hart & Huntington Las Vegas sure sees its share of repeat customers. Check out this story of Kelly & Kai, two friends who frequently make the drive from San Francisco to the Vegas shop for their tattoos—and for the friendships they've formed.
Upholding H&H's stellar reputation is something Nito enjoys. And her years of experience brings a world of knowledge to the shop.
My advice is to go with a bigger tattoo than you envision. People will come in with a reference photo, and it's one of those little temporary sticker tattoos. They're just so tiny, and they're cute; I get the appeal. But I feel like every time I tell them it has to be bigger, I'm shattering their dreams! And I feel so bad. I see the shock on their face, and I'm like, 'I'm sorry. I know, I know. You want to keep it small because it's super cute, but it will be a blob!'
Says the girl with a green Shrek 'S' merged with the 1990's 'S' tattoo. What’s a 1990’s ‘S’ you ask?
The 90’s ‘S’ is that geometrical-looking ‘S’ that is straight at the top. That's the weirdest one I ever came up with. Tyler threw the image on a sticky note, and we taped it up by the computer for a few weeks. And then Eric said, 'You know, we can do that on you.' So we did, and I love it.
Nito also loves her recent tattoo that pays tribute to her hometown of Lahaina, Hawaii.
One of my favorite tattoos is one I recently got as a memorial piece for my hometown of Lahaina.
This year (2023) there was a devastating fire that burnt the town entirely to the ground. That tattoo is a reminder of my hometown that I will never get to see again the way I remember it.
While Lahaina will always hold a special place in Nito's heart, she's come a long way from her Hawaiian roots and that "very bad" tattoo she got in her kitchen at 13. Nito's tattoo style has changed through the years from Black and Gray Realism to American Traditional.
I like the color palette for American Traditional. It really pops on my skin.
As Nito's tattoo styles evolve, so does her desire to grow her career in the tattoo industry. And she’s settling into her role as assistant manager in a tattoo shop that feels more like home than work. And, she couldn’t be happier.
Although I am still the newest person on the team, this company differs from any others.