Pete and Cubos Comes to Rockaway Beach

 Pete and Cubos Comes to Rockaway Beach

By Katie McFadden

Pete Giaquinto started tattooing in 1971. In 1975, John “Cubo” Cuminale went to Pete’s basement on 80th Street in Ozone Park and got his first tattoo. They became quick friends and Cubo learned how to tattoo soon after. The two continued tattooing in their basements in Ozone Park and Howard Beach. At the time, the duo might not have known that they would become legends in the New York tattoo world and their own shop, Pete and Cubos, would become a go-to in Queens. Now both gone, their legacy continues as the Pete and Cubos brand is expanding, taking up a second spot right here in Rockaway. Pete and Cubos Rockaway Beach opens Sunday, June 2.

When he was 15 years old, with a fake ID in hand, Georgie Contino, who calls Cubo his best friend despite a 15-year age difference, also walked into Cubo’s best friend, Pete’s basement, and got his first tattoo. Under Big Joe Kaplan of Big Joe and Sons, Contino learned how to body pierce 32 years ago. Contino became the third person in Queens to offer piercings. And it wasn’t long before he started learning the art of tattooing as well. He did his first in 1992.

This was all underground, of course, as the tattoo business was since 1961, when New York City outlawed tattooing due to a Hepatitis B outbreak. That outbreak was later traced to a dentist’s office, and when New York City made tattooing legal again in 1997, Pete and Cubo decided to take their art out of the basement and to a second-floor spot on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park. The original Pete and Cubos opened June 2, 1997.

Twenty-seven years later, to the day, Pete and Cubos Rockaway Beach will open. And it’s all in honor of the ones who started it all, dedicated by their partner, Georgie. In the ‘90s, Contino was working security at Prudential in Manhattan. One day, he got into an argument with his manager and went to vent to Cubo, who was an engineer in the building. “He said, ‘they’re legalizing tattooing. I want to open up a shop with you and Pete.’ I said, ‘I just quit my job, that sounds perfect, and I never looked back,” Contino recalled.

“It was the three of us together every day for years, 20 odd years with Pete and 33 years with Cubo,” Contino said. In September 2014, Pete passed away. And just last year, in July, Cubo died. Both were in their 60s. Losing them was a crushing blow for Contino, with the wounds still fresh from Cubo’s passing. “I knew Cubo since I was 15 and he was my roommate for 23 years, so I was devastated by his death,” Contino said. “They say the best way to block something out is to stay busy, so I said, we’re opening a second shop and I engulfed myself in building this place out.” Like a museum, the walls of Pete and Cubos Rockaway Beach are decked out with Pete’s original artwork that hung in his basement in the ‘70s to the ‘90s, and black and white photos of Pete, Cubo, Georgie and other legends they met and worked with throughout the years.

The new shop puts Pete and Cubos’ legacy on display, and Contino hopes it will be his legacy to leave behind. “My longtime employees, I’ve taken them in as partners in this, so for me, my girlfriend and I aren’t having children, so building this place and being able to pass it down to them will be a legacy for myself, and Pete and Cubo,” Contino said. Contino is opening the new shop with partners, Mike DiGiorgio, who’s worked for him for 10 years and Vinny Chiurazzi of Italy, who’s been working with him for eight years.

Why Rockaway? It’s a familiar place for Contino, whose girlfriend lives in Rockaway Beach, and as an avid fisherman, he’s made longtime friends in the community. “I’ve wanted to come here. I just didn’t know if a tattoo shop could survive the winter, because I know a few have tried, and it had to be the right location,” Contino said. But when an opportunity opened on Beach Channel Drive on the bay, a spot where Contino could fish off the back of in between appointments, the opportunity was calling, and so was that sense of community. “We’re not leaving Ozone Park, but there used to be a time I could go down Cross Bay Boulevard and I’d always hear ‘George, how’s it going?’ I don’t hear that anymore. When I drive through Rockaway, down Beach 116th or Beach 129th in the Pete and Cubos truck, I hear, “’George, George!’ It’s nice,” he said. “It’s a small close-knit community here and we’ve gotten a lot of support already.”

It sure helps that Pete and Cubos’ reputation speaks for itself. What is it that has made Pete and Cubos such a success? The artwork speaks for itself, but Contino says it’s more than skin deep. “We always treat everyone like family. That’s been very important to us. All of our clients, we have personal relationships with. It’s a business at the end of the day but what we like most is when people stop by just to say, ‘what’s up,’ even if they’re not getting tattooed,” Contino said.

Rockaway locals have long been making the eight-mile trip to Ozone Park to say, ‘what’s up’ and get some ink. But now that trip will be a bit shorter. With eight staffers ready to offer every style of tattooing, body piercing, children’s ear piercing, tooth gems, jewelry and more, Pete and Cubos is ready for Rockaway. Their grand opening takes place this Sunday, June 2 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. All are welcome to check out the new spot, meet the owners and staff, enjoy food, drinks, and even be the first to say they got tatted or pierced at Pete and Cubos Rockaway Beach.

Pete and Cubos Rockaway Beach is located at 112-20 Beach Channel Drive. They’ll be open Mondays to Fridays, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome. The shop is cash only. For info and appointments, call 718-945-0040. For updates and to see the artists’ work, check out @petencubosrb on Instagram.

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