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Ink on the go Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Jan 08 2011 12:00 PM

If you happen to see a custom-made 1984 Chevrolet step van cruising around Chula Vista, you can bet it's on its way to a local tattoo shop.

That's because Gabe Alvarez, who grew up in Chula Vista, has never been a desk job kind of guy. He prefers to be outdoors, riding motorcycles, fixing cars and working with metal.

In June, the 29-year-old created a mobile tattoo supply shop to better cater to tattoo artists in San Diego.

San Diego Tattoo Supply is a one-stop-shop for tattoo parlors in need of supplies and offers around 100 products from needles and ink to sterilization equipment and tattoo machines.

One of his first clients was Concrete Jungle Tattoo off Broadway in Chula Vista.

Jesse Mercado, 36, is the owner and has been using San Diego Tattoo Supply since June.

"It was the first time I saw something like this and I've been tattooing for 17 years," Mercado said.

Alvarez said he came up with the idea of a mobile supply van when he was getting tattooed. "I heard a guy in the shop talking about more efficient customer service from suppliers to artists," he said. "I thought that I could fill that need."

"My whole life I've wanted to be self-employed," Alvarez said. "I thought something like this would be perfect for me."

Alvarez grew up in Chula Vista and lived here for 20 years. He and wife Angel will be married two years this summer.

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