Phantom Tattoo Embraces Old School Culture
Centralia Shop Part of Country’s Longest Continuing Tattoo Shop Out of Seattle
“It’s a tattoo shop. Tattoo shops should be in the gutter. I like it that way.”
— Phantom Tattoo owner Sean Lindseth
The Weekender dropped in on Sean Lindseth, owner of Phantom Tattoo, to get the vibe on the shop located in downtown Centralia.
Lindseth is a throwback to a time when tattoo culture meant something, had its own code. He said Phantom Tattoo is a culture and part of a family of shops centering around P.A. Stephens’ Seattle Tattoo Emporium, the country’s longest continually operating tattoo shop. Phantom Tattoo is its southernmost location. Stephens is Lindseth’s business partner as well.
Lindseth said its rare these days to find a real, legitimate tattoo shop that has continuous roots. The family history of tattoo shops in the Great Pacific Northwest started with C.J.”Danny” Danzl and the Seattle Tattoo Emporium in 1938. That history continues with Phantom Tattoo which opened in 2004.
Before Centralia he was working in Olympia where he helped open The Electric Rose tattoo shop. He was drawn south to Centralia as business started to dwindle in the state capitol. He sensed someone had moved into the Lewis County area.
“We just came down here to reclaim our business and stick the flag in another town, claim it as ours, because that’s kind of the way it used to be done,” he said. “Nowadays there’s no territories, there’s no boundaries — nobody really thinks about that so you just do what you can and fly your flag.”
As part of the old school culture at Phantom Tattoo, walk-ins are welcome but appointments are encouraged. They do not accept appointments via text, messenger or email. You must walk into the shop or call to book some time. You must be at least 18. And it is just tattoos, no piercings, with plenty of edge.
“It’s a tattoo shop,” Lindseth said. “Tattoo shops should be in the gutter. I like it that way.”
He said his website phantomcult.com reflects ties to the past.
“Cult is just short for culture. You know phantom tattoo, phantom tattoo’s culture, phantom cult,” he said. “It’s just short, it’s slang, it’s a little bit of a hot rodder throwback, a little bit of old story.”
Lindseth has been inking since he was a teenager 35 years ago. He talked to The Weekender while he was touching up butterfly tattoos on the back of his friend Angela Stolz while Jethro Tull played in the background.
How did he get his start?
“It kind of went hand-in-hand with punk rock and skateboarding, rebellious 13-year-old kid, wanting to do something different, piss off his parents, the whole teenage rebellious thing,” he said.
Stolz said her motivation in getting tatts is an extension of her personal art.
“Some people want art on their body, some people want art that has significance on their body, mine is a combination of both,” she said. “They kind of stand for something very personal.”
She’s also a bit private. You don’t see tattoos running down her neck or filling up her arms.
“If I want to show them I can, that’s kind of the reason why they are where they are. … I’m not one of those that want people to know a lot about me,” she said.
Lindseth is the opposite. He has a tiger tattoo with an hourglass framed by a set of wings and his father’s birth and death dates on his balding head. He calls it a traditional style tattoo.
“Well, that’s what happens when you go bald, you got to put something fancy up there, right?” he said. “… If I have to have a skin yamika for the rest of my life I might as well decorate it.”
Lindseth starts to ink Stoltz. She seems to relax, with a little pain thrown in. This will last for about two hours.
“As you go up the back and kind of down, and maybe each person is different, but the top will feel actually pretty nice — almost a tickling sensation. When you start rubbing and filling the color in and touching where you’ve been outlining before, it does kind of sting a little bit. The skin gets a little bit numb. It feels a little bit raw and as then you go down lower it’s almost like the nerves are stronger there and it does smart a little bit.”
Stoltz will have plenty of opportunity for more tattoos from her favorite shop. Lindseth isn’t going anywhere.
“After doing this for 35 years I ain’t slowing down any and the stories just keep piling up. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The Weekender promised a return visit to Phantom Tattoo to further discuss true tattoo culture and its deep history.
Phantom Tattoo106B N. Tower Ave., Centralia