Two local tattoo shops have been getting under each other’s skin – each trying a different way to make its mark on the population of Isla Vista.

Precious Slut 3, the area’s newest tattoo parlor, opened last month at 910 Embarcadero del Norte. Located next to the Blue Dolphin Cafe, the shop offers an assortment of pipes, jewelry and apparel, as well as tattooing and body piercing. Precious Slut 3 faces competition from Kustom Ink Tattoo and Body Piercing, which is located just a few blocks away at 6565 Trigo Rd. and has provided tattoo and piercing work to I.V. residents for the past 15 years.

Precious Slut 3’s owner, who gave his name as “Slut Coats,” said he branched out to I.V. after opening two other Precious Slut stores in Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nev. Coats said he welcomes the chance to find out if there is room for two tattoo parlors in I.V.

“As long as everyone plays fair, it’s just some friendly competition,” Coats said.

Lindsay McNight, owner of Kustom Ink and longtime artist and self-proclaimed tattoo purist, said her shop is the second-oldest tattoo studio in the Santa Barbara area and has been at its present location in I.V. for 15 years. Robert Lafferry, veteran Kustom Ink tattoo artist and former owner of the shop, said he turned over ownership of Kustom Ink to McNight about a month ago.

Lafferry said he was upset that Precious Slut moved into I.V. without talking to him and McKnight first – a courtesy he said is standard in the tattoo business – but he said he is not worried about the extra competition.

“We’ve been here forever,” Lafferry said. “We’re not going anywhere … crap tattoo shops are good for business because if they mess up, customers come to me to cover up the mistakes.”

Precious Slut 3 currently employs one permanent tattoo artist and one part-time artist from Las Vegas, both of whom, Coats said, could match their skill against the best in the country. Coats, who divides his time between his stores in Nevada and I.V., said his shop has an advantage because of its public relations skills, standards of cleanliness and knowledgeable staff. Coats said his shop adheres to the standards set by the Clark County Health District in Nevada, and he said hygiene standards will remain high as long as he owns the store.

“My employees can tell you absolutely anything you want to know about tattoos and piercings,” he said. “There’s always someone who sees you differently, but opposition is healthy. Everyone says my store is really clean and nice.”

Lafferry said he thought Precious Slut 3’s diverse inventory only distracts from a good tattoo shop’s main focus.

“We just do tattoos and piercings; we don’t need to sell adidas,” Lafferry said. “Down in Venice Beach, scummy shops sell whatever they can fit in. We focus on our art because this is permanent.”

Lafferry said students considering getting a tattoo or piercing are mainly concerned with the cleanliness of the shop and the sterilization practices of its artists. He said someone getting a tattoo should be able to trust the shop they visit and the people who work there as they would a dentist’s office or barbershop.

“Is it a spot where you walk into and feel comfortable, kind of like a barbershop?” Lafferry said. “Anyone can cut hair, but do you feel comfortable with who’s cutting your hair?”

Precious Slut 3’s Web site and business cards sport the slogan, “Sluts are people, too.” Coats said he means no offense to any female by his nickname and the name that adorns his storefronts.

“It’s all in fun,” he said.