Tattoo and a shave


Nathan Wilson

The Modern Electric Tattoo & Barber Co. prides itself on a calming environment while tattoos are applied.

America Garza, Reporter

Take one look around the Modern Electric tattoo shop and you’ll realize you are not dealing with tattoo artists, but with artists who tattoo.

A diverse collection of art in every style, color and medium decorates the shops walls – all original pieces amassed over 20 years by the shop’s co-owner and tattoo artist Billy Von Boening.

Twenty years after opening the first tattoo shop above Guthrie’s Alley Cat, Von Boening returns to downtown Bakersfield along with wife and co-owner Amy Daley, a business-marketing student at Bakersfield College, to open their uniquely-billed tattoo and barbershop. Modern Electric opened its doors in May and the pair has since gone to work establishing the shop and making plans to give back to their hometown.

“I’m tired of people thinking of us as a hick town. We could be so much more than that,” said Daley.

At 46, Von Boening is already a 20-year veteran of the tattoo world. He has worked with some of the most high profile names in the industry – skateboarding legend Steve Godoy, world-renowned female artist Kari Barba, and Clark North from the TLC show Inked, among others. His work is featured on dozens of covers of major tattoo publications, as well as on the flesh of members of Bakersfield rock bands Korn and Adema. But despite his success, Von Boening is a down-to-earth guy who is passionate about tattoos as an art, a culture, and a business.

According to Von Boening and Daley, combining a tattoo parlor with a barbershop is a practice that originated in New York in the 1950s.

With services like hot-towel straight-razor shaves, shoe shining, and ’50s-style cuts offered seven days a week, Von Boening says Modern Electric is “the old-style gentleman barbershop.”

It’s not just the barbershop side that seems to ooze authenticity at Modern Electric. Von Boening and Daley only hire experienced and professional tattoo artists, and no one with less than five years of experience gets in.

“You have to have artists that people want to come see. We have, combined, more than 60 years experience in this shop,” says Daley.

The pair believes that fostering their artists’ talents benefits the shop and, ultimately, the customers.

“We like to stay busy,” says Daley. “If our artists aren’t tattooing they’re painting, or doing flash…(they’re) always artistic. We encourage that. We keep art supplies around to inspire their creativity so we can grow as better tattoo artists.”

There’s a different vibe about Modern Electric that you just don’t get at other shops around town.

Customers are greeted warmly, invited to check out the artists work, and chatted with about surprisingly normal stuff. The whole shop hums with a sort of harmony.

“We keep our customers happy, and we definitely try to keep our artists happy because if you don’t have a happy home, it’s not going to work,” says Daley.

Modern Electric plans to use the artists’ talents to give back to the community through a number of year-round charitable causes. The shop will be raising proceeds for the Breast Cancer Society by offering $20 pink ribbon tattoos for the month of October.

They are also participating in the Via Arte at the Marketplace next month, an event that raises money for The Bakersfield Museum of Art, as well as featuring artists in the Kids of Kern art show to benefit the local Alliance Against Family Violence.

“We know we’re nothing without our community so we try to do as much as possible,” said Daley.

There are 25 tattoo shops in Bakersfield, possibly hundreds of barbershops, but there’s only one Modern Electric tattoo and barbershop.