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Passage Tattoo Parlour

Posted by Staff / Posted on September 3, 2010

Passage Tattoo ParlourPassage Tattoo Parlour. If you're not looking for it, you will miss it. Nestled in the thick of the Village, firmly planted on Church St., its only storefront is an insignia-plastered door that leads to a narrow hallway. Passing some awards on the wall, you ascend a staircase into the open wilds of Passage Tattoo. One of Toronto's highly-touted tattoo shops.

I'm here to meet with Jay Decator, the amicable owner that everyone tells me is, well, personable. And they're right. As Decator and I meander through the deceptively large two-storey parlour, he explains why patrons are able to find that hidden front door on the street.

Passage Tattoo Parlour"We are mostly word-of-mouth, because we are so tucked away," he begins in his relaxed, composed tone. "We're not a street shop per se; people have to find us and seek us out." But that's not necessarily a bad thing, he notes. Having been operating a tattoo gun since '94, Decator bought Passage 10 years ago from a friend. And ever since, the shop has been working the old-fashioned way: by a solid word-of-mouth reputation.

Passage Tattoo ParlourThis means that the vast majority of Passage's customer's aren't "first-timers" or walk-ins off the street. (Typically when a first-timer does enter through Passage's hard-to-find front door, it's because they're accompanied with a heavily tattooed friend.) Decator and co.--there are currently four tattoo artists total and an apprentice--are then able to concentrate their efforts on bigger, more complex pieces.

Passage Tattoo ParlourHaving been a linchpin in Toronto's tattoo community for the past decade, Decator appreciates the city's healthy tattoo scene. But he also thinks it's a little overcrowded. "I don't think Toronto needs anymore tattoo shops," he says, running his hand through his hair and pausing. "I think there is a glut of them."

Passage Tattoo ParlourSo what separates the good shops from the sub-par shops? Quality. That and people who care, explains Decator. It's actually one of the chief reasons Decator is a skin artist. The interactive nature and collaboration with his clients is somewhat of a bonding experience. Which makes sense if you're staring intensely at someone's naked back for five-hours straight working on a back piece. But by doing so, Decator has a built a loyal, high-praising clientele. A clientele that has him booked three months down the road.

"It's collaborative," says Decator. "You're giving them what they want--the best version of what they want."

Passage Tattoo ParlourBut back to the quality point. Passage appreciates artists that have learned "the long way and the hard way." Case in point: Kate Davies, the full-sleeved, cheerful receptionist has been an apprentice for the past two years. "She has been doing a painting a day for the last two years," says Decator. "And she's getting better and better." (When I walk into the reception area, she's working on an elaborate and colourful painting.) Davies is now starting to do small tattoos, some of which are free. "I think she's really earned the right to start doing tattoos." That's the kind of quality, not to mention dedication at Passage.

As we end up back in Decator's personal tattoo room - which is lined with sketches, writings and hand-drawn outlines that serve as his "wallpaper" - he doles out some advice.

Passage Tattoo Parlour"You don't need to have someone die to get a tattoo. You don't need some major, life-changing incident to happen in your life to get a tattoo. You can get a tattoo just because you think an image looks nice," he says, referring to shows like Miami Ink, where each patron has a half-an-hour narrative to describe their new piece. "You can just get a tattoo because you like the tattoo."

A fixed hourly rate of $130 applies for all tattoos. Passage Tattoo is located at 473 Church St.

Passage Tattoo ParlourWriting by Ryan Bolton. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.

Discussion

38 Comments

Andre Gaulin / September 4, 2010 at 10:57 am
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I've been getting tattooed by Jay since '96 and he really is super awesome (as is the rest of the Passage crew). The work he's done on me ALWAYS grabs people's attention and the word of mouth stuff is very true. The shop may be hidden but that's what makes it very special.

Great to see the shop getting the attention it deserves.
terry / September 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm
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i've had two large pieces done at passage- one by tyson, and the other by jay. both pieces surpassed my expectations, and you couldn't ask for a nicer bunch. check em out, they're extremely good at what they do.
adam / September 4, 2010 at 03:39 pm
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Just had some work done at passage, Very impressed with the work done by chris on the start of my half sleeve. Chris and passage has a new customer for life!
Uncle Stevie / September 5, 2010 at 12:16 am
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Had Chris hook me up with a golden dragon sleeve! Very happy LOVE Passage and there artists!
James / September 5, 2010 at 12:14 pm
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I got my first-ever tattoo on Wednesday by Tyson. He gave me great advice on colours. The design is an optical illusion and is very dependant upon Tyson's sure hand for success. I can't even say I had any discomfort during the application. I have had nothing but compliments on it and everyone wants to know what it means...
J.J. / September 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm
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PASSAGE IS TOPS! Jay's been tattooing me for a long time.....and i can say this is the shop i recommend for everyone.
It's clean and tidy, the staff is super friendly (HI KATE!) and accommodating.

I <heart> passage.

J.J.
xoxo
Marcus / September 8, 2010 at 12:30 pm
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Chris has been my tattoo artist for a couple years now. Hes the man. Definitely recommend him and have heard nothing but good stuff about the rest of the staff.

See ya next month!
Brennan / September 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm
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Awesome place, definitely really much more comfortable and nicer than the gruff sketchbag places around. Mike is a champ and someone I'd definitely recommend nervous people to. I was expecting a very friendly Katie based on what I've heard, but she wasn't very welcoming. (Maybe a bad day)
karly / September 19, 2010 at 07:39 pm
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me and my best friend came in last summer and got tattoos from chris. he did an amazing job and i will for sure go back to him for my next one. i'm always getting compliments on his work.
unknown2you / January 5, 2011 at 11:54 am
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I'm huge on customer service, and my fiance raves about Jays' work all the time, he has several tatts by him. When he went to check out the passage and talk to Jay, some pushy girl at the front desk was acting like his body guard--i understand if he was busy--but she was so rude and unfriendly. My fiance wanted me to meet Jay because I'm looking for a large piece to be done, and I was quite disappointed and put off by the girls attitude. Jay may be a good artist but having to deal with her again would be unpleasent- I think I'll just stick to my usual artist.
unknown2you2 replying to a comment from unknown2you / January 10, 2011 at 03:30 pm
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following the procedures of the shop or any other one in the city will insure your satisfaction.

thinking that you are special and more important than anyone else will lead to feelings of dis-satisfaction.

next time book a consultation and you might leave a happy camper.

trash talking someone who is doing their job is hurtful and disrespectful
Jacqueline replying to a comment from unknown2you / January 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm
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That's very strange... the polite & friendly counterperson (Kate I believe) was the main reason I chose Passage in the 1st place! Every other tattoo place we called downtown were quite unfriendly in comparison. My boyfriend has since been back (we both saw Mike & love our tattoos) and were treated like long lost friends both times. I hope to return again before summer for my second!
unknown2you / January 10, 2011 at 11:56 pm
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I wasn't expected to be put ahead of everyone else, but a simple polite attitude would have made a difference. Whether my fiance was a returning client or I was a potentially new client. She was quite rude, maybe she was having an "off" day, but this is a review board and I made my review of unfriendly customer service that I received. I didn't say anything rude or disrespectful. I gave my opinion which is my right to do so.
James / January 11, 2011 at 05:42 am
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Without questioning the validity of anyone's individual experience, I would like to say that I have been to Passage about 6 times to have work done and have always felt welcome and valued as a client. Even as a newbie, asking all the newbie questions, I was treated with warmth and respect. Heck, even just walking by on the street and seeing staff out front of the shop I have been recognised with a cheery hello. Kate has a unique, intelligent, and assertive personality that may not be to everyone's taste (who is? lol) but she is a "take charge" front person for the shop, capable and organised, and put me at ease and made me laugh.

But of course I would HAVE to say that because now I am totally adicted to ink and , well, she's kind of like my 'connection'. hahahaha
Janice Cho Chu / August 7, 2011 at 04:15 am
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I can't believe someone from BlogTO hasn't deleted the comment from "face moisturizer." I mean, seriously?! It's been here for almost a year! Delete spam comments!
Dee replying to a comment from unknown2you / August 14, 2011 at 03:52 am
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I went there today to find out if there were any walk in spots. All I wanted were the words Blessed Be in scrolling script on the inside of my forearm. They were fully booked which I totally understand, BUT, the receptionist proceeds to tell me that I need to book a consultation first. This is not my first rodeo and I have a plethora of tattoos. I know damned well that I do not need to book a seperate appointment for a consult for simple script and then another appointment for a different day for a tattoo. I was so confused by her statement that I asked her to clarify a few times just to be sure this was what she was telling me. She just kept saying "these are the shop rules". I was pretty dissapointed as I had some work done there in 2000 and was extremely pleased. Sadly, I will not be returning to Passage ever again!
james replying to a comment from Dee / August 14, 2011 at 09:13 am
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Booking a consultation appt prior to a tattoo appt is pretty standard these days. One might even consider it the mark of a reputable shop. Sometimes an artist may have some time to do a consult right away with a walk in, and then book the appt to do the work at a later date, but when a shop is fully booked this is unlikely. The consultation not only allows the customer to benefit from the artist's expertise when deciding on size, colour, image, script, location, etc - it also reduces the frequency of clients getting permanent work done on a whim that they may regret later.In short, I think prospective clients should respect the procedures of the shop.
pleased as punch / October 23, 2011 at 08:34 am
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I just went to Passage Tatto to get my very first tatt..it was done by Kate and I could not be happier, she was awesome..the place was clear and the staff was super nice...I would definetly reccomend this place to anyone.
Missy replying to a comment from Dee / November 19, 2011 at 11:48 am
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Dee,
Why sacrifice quality for convenience?

The consultation is for YOUR benefit not theirs, because they want to make sure you get exactly what you want & discuss any issues that may arise with the design. That's one of the reasons why Passage is on this list.

'Scrolling script' as you describe it could mean any number of things to any number of people.

I can't believe you wouldn't take 15 minutes of your time to invest in something that will be with you for the rest of your life.

I'm a long time customer at Passage and the quality, care, and love they put into their work is above and beyond any other tattoo studio I've been to.
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Tattoo Stencil Paper / January 31, 2012 at 01:01 am
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I think body art is a fantastic way for artists and people to express their inner thoughts. It takes great skill to be a tattoist, not only a good drawer, but a very attentative, creative and sturdy handed person.
Tattoos have been around for centuries, with the dynamics changing and the artwork more creative.



I often wonder why more people don’t just do laser for a few sessions to lighten the original tattoo(s) then goto a good tattooer to do a whole new tattoo over it as it opens up so many more options
Never -EVER- put someone else’s name on your body, with two exceptions:

Parents.

or

Children
icerttiesha / February 4, 2012 at 04:01 pm
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tattoo fonts / March 31, 2012 at 03:16 am
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RamaSu / June 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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CAn I get a number for Passage Tattoos?
Crombie replying to a comment from RamaSu / August 18, 2012 at 12:32 am
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RamaSu, try checking the top of the article on the right hand side!
Debby / September 8, 2012 at 06:46 pm
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I had a great experience at Passage. Everyone was super friendly and made me feel welcome. Kate did an amazing job and I am happy I chose this place to get my first tattoo!
Figgy / October 23, 2012 at 04:25 am
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Got work done by Kate, very happy and I'm getting more from her soon she's quick and very good!!! I have a few pieces from Chris as well... I will only go
To passage!! No where else!! Love everyone there!! Bunch of great people!!
Long duk dong replying to a comment from unknown2you / December 21, 2012 at 01:15 am
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''unknown2you'' is rite, the chick in the shop is a real piece of work, I went in to book an appointment for Tyson and I just ended up sayin f%#k it then left. Lousey customer service imo.
kee / January 23, 2013 at 05:23 pm
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I got a piece done by Kate yesterday, and had a great experience. The shop is clean and bright (unlike a lot of shops I've seen), and Kate is so friendly and easy to work with. The receptionist is definitely not the friendliest person I've ever met, but everyone else was great!

I would definitely recommend Passage to anyone.
shane / February 1, 2013 at 04:48 pm
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I've been getting my tattoos here for years by Jay, Tyson & Kate, plus, I have friends who see Chris. It's a super friendly shop with wicked talented artists and fabulous service which is why it's my favourite...also why they're busy as heck! :)
Lois / February 13, 2013 at 01:23 pm
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All my tattoos are done by Tyson. He is amazing and always friendly! He is the reason I keep coming back.

I can agree though, The current receptionist is not the best. I am in the middle of a large piece and I feel as if she just does not care. She even is rude at times. The tattoo I am currently on is 9.5 hours in and have at least that to go. She makes booking or changing an appointment an awkward and unpleasant experience.
Bill / April 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm
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I'm not looking for something extremely complex or even original. I'm looking to get a tribal version of Mew (the Pokemon)on my inner right arm (don't judge :P ). Is this the kind of shop that people would recommend to me for that? And if so, can anyone tell me how much that kind of thing would cost at Passage?
Aw, man. / August 22, 2013 at 02:34 pm
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So I went through with a tatt I had a bad gut feeling over from the stencil. But many of us who are familiar with tattoos are likely familiar with how much epicness is added to the tatt during procedure. I mentioned it, and then felt good to sit once Kate reassured me the shading would be there, too. Well!

She just did... what I can only call... a half assed job. Kinda lazy. Like, it may be just another day at the office for you, but now i gotta live with something I'll have negative feelings over, uh, forever.

In hindsight, I would have much preferred to lose my deposit. Maybe that's why it ain't so much at PASSAGE. I've heard so many good things, but no.

Evita / October 12, 2013 at 01:25 pm
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Just wondering if they tattoo people at the age of 16, with parental consent?

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