If you’re looking for the best places to get tattooed in San Clemente, you’re going to want to add the brand new studio known simply as the Vault to your list.
Tucked away in an unassuming business center, the Vault currently houses three of the best tattooers you’ll find anywhere in South County, as veteran artist Rich Pineda enlisted his talented friends Brad Reis and Sancho to round out the crew at his new shop. With the impressive shop having only recently opened (a couple of finishing visual details still have to be put in place, but the three artists are already working on clients), the Vault is Pineda’s way of giving back to the community and firmly setting roots down in the area he now calls home.
“I’ve worked at multiple shops, and they’ve all been good experiences — sometimes it doesn’t end well, but you get over that,” Pineda says. “I knew if I was going to build a shop, it was going to be somewhere by the beach. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life, but I felt like if I started a shop now, it didn’t have to be a traditional street shop. I wanted to have a place where everybody who was involved was going to get along on deeper levels than just tattooing.”
Aside from the renowned tattooer’s artistic partners, Pineda made sure to keep the business side of the Vault within his inner circle as well. His wife, Kelli, is handling everything from decor to logistics for the new space. From battling the city over alleged parking issues to making sure the shop has a friendly and luxurious vibe from floor to ceiling, the Pineda family has worked as a team to tackle just about every issue most new shop owners have to handle on their own.
“Kelli and I really wanted to do it our way,” Pineda says. “She did most of the designing — all of the colors, couches, where the art was going to go, all of that. She would have rather have it look like a home, and I wanted it to look more like a tattoo shop. Somewhere in the middle you have like an elegant grungy feel.”
But more than just the two owners, Pineda wants to make sure his crew at the Vault is a family both in and out of the workplace. Considering that each of the three artists has their own unique style and established clientele, one of the main priorities for the Vault is ensuring that they don’t make the same mistakes that drive many other shops apart. After working at his fair share of other people’s shops, Pineda knows the importance of treating his fellow artists as equals rather than employees.
“There are so many people at a shop where if there’s negative energy from one person, it’ll infect the whole shop even if you’re not in the room with that person,” Pineda says. “I always said if I was a shop owner that I would treat the people I work alongside of much differently. They’re not working for me, they’re working next to me. I happen to have the shop in my name, but it’s just as much theirs.”
As for the employees themselves, Sancho and Reis add expertises in black and gray realism and geometric designs respectively to Pineda’s world-class color realism. With the three of them together at the Vault, there aren’t a whole lot of tattoos that the staff can’t produce better than just about anyone else in the area. As the two other artists see it, working in a situation like the Vault gives them both significant opportunities and benefits they wouldn’t find elsewhere.
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“I think what we’re going to bring the clientele and everyone else is just going to be great,” Sancho says. “With the three of us in the same room, we’re just going to grow from each other and provide fucking great-ass art.”
“There’s so much opportunity here working with Rich,” Reis adds. “I can’t wait to see the evolution of us as a team and seeing how it grows to the next level.”
Or in Pineda’s words — and the slogan hanging all around the Vault — it’s all about making great art and being “a brotherhood of gentlemen.”
The Vault, 927 Calle Negocio, San Clemente, @thevaultsc