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Trader Bob’s Tattoo Living History

Trader Bob’s Tattoo is an undeniably important part of American Tattoo Living History. Although some details are still hazy and under continuing research, Trader Bob’s was born out of the remnants of Bert Grimm’s last shop location at 716 N. Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri. It is one of the longest running shops in America and is still thriving to this day at 2529 S. Jefferson Ave. on St. Louis’s South Side in the Historic District of Fox Park.

Before leaving St. Louis, Grimm sold his shop to Sailor Larry who was an employee and heavily tattooed by him. After Sailor Larry it passed through a couple hands before being sold to Trader Bob Cleveland who gave it it’s current name of “Trader Bob’s Tattoo”. Throughout the years it shared a space with a shooting gallery, penny arcade, peep games and even a dirty book store. The 716 N. Broadway location was the last of a few different locations that Grimm had on the Broadway strip which for years was a destination spot for soldiers who were stationed at Jefferson Barracks Army Base in Lemay Ferry. They would ferry up the Mississippi for some R&R at one of the many watering holes and burlesque shows and of course get tattooed. Jefferson Barracks was decommissioned after WWII and N. Broadway business was never the same. Still the tattoo shop hung on helped out by being conveniently located across from the old Greyhound bus station and was in the back of a dirty book store called “Bobby’s Books”. It was still at 716 N. Broadway when Mitch Mitchell began tattooing there. When the City of Saint Louis extended Highway 44 they tore down that portion of the strip that was still hanging on but falling into disrepair. Mitch moved what was left of the collection along with Bobby’s Books to Trader Bob’s present location at 2529 S. Jefferson Ave. in 1976 where it has been ever since.

Mitch kept Trader Bob’s going all through the 80’s and 90’s and pushed himself to be the best tattooer in the area. Having learned from the likes of Cliff Raven, Mitch also reached out and became friends with Bob Roberts and Ed Hardy and was even at the first Queen Mary convention. He gave a start to many excellent tattooers some of who still work in the St. Louis area to this day. After Mitch’s passing in 2001 his son Mike inherited the shop and eventually sold it to it’s current owners and full time tattooers Alan Thompson and Nate Strautkalns. Staffed by a skilled and diverse crew, Trader Bob’s lives on today taking walk-ins every day and offering all styles of tattooing from custom appointments to Old School American Traditional off the original sheets of flash painted by the tattooers who have worked there throughout the years. Sporting one of the largest collections of Ralph Johnstone, and R. Johnson flash pages as well as Earl Brown, E.D. Horton, Art and “Trader Bob” Cleveland and of course Mitch Mitchell, Trader Bob’s certainly is a destination shop and an important link in American Tattoo Living History.

- Written by Ahmed Eldarrat

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