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Green Bay tattoo artist is going strong after 40 plus years in the industry

Posted at 6:00 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 19:02:59-04

GREEN BAY, Wis (NBC 26) -- For over forty years one of the nation's top tattoo artists has been operating out of his shop in Green Bay. Rick Harnowski, the owner of Tattoos by Rick has left his mark on Packers' players, police officers, and maybe even some of your neighbors.

"I opened my first shop in 1980. I've been messing around with tattoos since the late 60's."

Rick Harnowski got into tattooing as a teenager, and as many in the industry know it's tough to find your first customer.

"I put my own tattoo on myself when I was 15," says Harnowski.

But as he got better, and more folks started trusting him, Rick began revolutionizing the industry in Wisconsin. He pushed for state regulations requiring customers to be 18 plus and for sanitary standards which ultimately would raise the bar for everyone in the profession.

"I was the first licensed tattoo artist in Green Bay as well as the state."

But it was the artistry that Rick mastered through the years, that really got people in his industry talking.

"This is my passion right here. I work with a lot of wonderful people. I get to meet a lot of wonderful people."

Through the years his work has been displayed in countless magazines, he's put ink on numerous Packers players and celebrities alike, and some of his work has even been disqualified from competitions, which frankly, is puzzling even to Rick.

"He kept going to Sturgis to enter a tattoo competition and after about two to three years they said you can't enter anymore because it's not fair, because you're winning all the time."

Because of the demand for his service customers will wait anywhere from 6 months to a year to get some work done at Rick's shop. A friend of Rick's, Jerry Parins, became a customer a few years back.

"He makes a lot of people very happy with his work."

Parins, a former Packers employee and police officer, went 80 years before getting his first tattoo. He decided it was time though after a nurse told him some ink could be the perfect way for him to honor his late wife.

"She said it's good for you, it's a way of healing, helping you mentally and she'll be with you always."

And while often working 7 days a week would be taxing for most in their retirement years, Rick says it's what he knows and he wouldn't want it any other way. He just hopes that his legacy and work ethic will continue through his sons.

"Hopefully my sons will carry this on, and it looks like they are," says Harnowski.