New Tribe Tattoo
New Tribe Tattoo is hard to miss. Sitting across from MuchMusic on Queen West, New Tribe is a 4,000 sq. ft. body art kingdom. And with six full-time tattoo artists, four body piercers, three counter staff and a barber - yeah, seriously, a barber - New Tribe has been a fixture in Toronto's tattoo scene since 1994. And a year ago, they became the in-house artists at Tattoo Rock Parlour - the local drink, rock out and get inked joint just down the road on Queen. And business is booming.
When I walk into New Tribe, I'm not shocked by the size. You can roughly guess its girth by standing on the street below. After you ascend the stairs, to your right is an enclosed room that houses five tattoo beds. A cute girl is getting a foot piece and a guy is getting work done on a half-sleeve.
As I sit in the roomy reception area waiting for Eric Gaudet, the shop's manager, small wolf packs of teenage girls enter. They are all interested in mainly piercings - nose, ear and navel, typically. Talking with the counter girl, she explains that a good majority of the browsing, Katy Perry-lovin' kids do end up getting a piercing or a tattoo. According to the staff, New Tribe is probably the busiest piercing shop in town. It's all in the location that gets the foot traffic from curious passerby bored from shopping Queen West. What Gaudet calls the "mainstream clientele."
And with a mixture of walk-ins and custom work, New Tribe does it all. Between the artists, they will do tribal, Celtic, big, small, colour, Haida, black and grey, portraits, Japanese and traditional. In a year, "Guys [tattoo artists] here will do thousands of tattoos," says Gaudet. "No exaggeration." And because of the prime location, New Tribe sets about 20% of booking time aside for walk-ins. And unlike other big shops in the city, if it fits and a consult isn't needed, they'll do walk-ins that day. But Gaudet ensures that his artists can run with the best of them. "Any of our artists could stack up with any other artists [in the city] with their custom work."
The shop's walls are decked with your common tattoo shop flare. You have the typical stock tattoo drawings of smiley cherubs, mini-devils and fantastical characters. (Who actually gets these tattoos anyway?) There are a number of tattoo-inspired skateboard decks on the wall. Generic rock music is playing over the speakers. And then there's the shop's T-shirts and jewelry for sale. As I walk the well-lit environ, I check out the private piercing room (they also do genital and nipple piercings), barber shop, large sterilization centre, and, in the back, a good-sized staff room outfitted with a gi-freakin'-normous flat screen TV and Xbox 360 console.
Under the ownership of Dave Wildenboer, a tattoo artist himself, circa 1994 New Tribe started in a cramped spot on Queen St. before growing into the current digs after a year. And now with their artists at Tattoo Rock Parlour, which brings a "different type of crowd, different type of atmosphere, different hours," according to Gaudet, New Tribe is sitting pretty in a crowded downtown tattoo scene.
With an obvious explosion in tattoo shops dotting the city in the past couple years, New Tribe is a mainstay, says Gaudet. They have the reputation of quality, safe work. They have an inviting and knowledgeable counter staff. And they damn well have the location.
New Tribe is open from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Saturday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Tattoo Rock Parlour is open from 2 p.m. - 2 a.m. on most nights, when the bar is open.