By Clay Riness

Like it or not, ink has become a mainstay of pop culture. Cody Story, owner of Mind Altering Tattoos, currently La Crosse’s oldest operating tattoo parlor, has a theory on why. “Individual ownership,” he says. “You can have anything on you that you’d like, and you own it. Tattoos last longer than romance, longer than life. When you get put in the ground, that tattoo is still there and always will be.” Story opened his business in La Crosse in 1997.

He opines that ink is a college fad right now, but it has grown past that. “When kids come in now and say they want something original, my new line is, ‘Don’t get one … be original,’” he says, tongue in cheek. “When I got into it, it was bikers and sailors.

My clientele now is coming in and telling me they want to start a piece of art.

They’re looking for the sleeve, the back piece, the full body.” Works of ink like this require numerous visits and many hours of work.

His career began in an unusual fashion. “I was in the Navy,” he admits. “I went to get a tattoo at a guy’s house. He passed out. His wife held my arm and I finished my own first tattoo. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I can do this … easy money!’ Turns out, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”

Although Story never studied art, he does believe it comes to him somewhat naturally. When asked what his inspiration to become a tattoo artist is, he simply answers, “Couldn’t tell ya. It’s not my inspiration; it’s yours. What do you want? I can take your ideas and put them on paper, and then trace them from paper to your skin. So, your imagination is really your limit.”

Tattoo designs come from other places, too. “Google,” he says. “Twenty-eight years ago when I started this, you had to buy artwork that people had drawn up, or make your own.” Now, he admits, people can walk in with a smartphone and show him an image of something and simply say, “I want this.”

You might wonder what kind of design gets Cody Story excited. “The very next one I see,” he says, smiling.

“When you come to my shop, I’m going to do the best job that I can do. If I’m not particularly moved by a design a customer brings in, I have five other artists here in the shop that might be. One way or another, we’re going to get you taken care of.”

Mind Altering Tattoos has been voted the best tattoo shop in La Crosse for the past five years. Story prides himself on the philosophy of quality over quantity, and rock solid customer service.

For more information on Mind Altering Tattoos, visit Cody and his artists at 327 Main Street in downtown
La Crosse or call (608) 782-8287. They can be found online at