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Pearl Harbor Gift Shop

Posted by Jordan Nahmias / Posted on June 3, 2010

Pearl Harbor Gift ShopPearl Harbor Gift Shop draws inspiration from Japanese and American WWII-era art and design. Officially open since May 1st, it's a light, open and inspiring space to have one of Glennie Whittall, Bill Baker, Daniel Innes, or other guest artists adorn your body with any one of a myriad image. The space itself was once a restaurant as well as a clothing store. But, after 4 months of renovations (including the installation of shelving salvaged from the old Rotman's hat shop on Spadina, as well as century-old general store cabinetry and tin ceilings), the shop is a beautiful testament to the past.

After speaking with co-owners Baker and Innes, I quickly learn the nostalgic, war-era feeling of the shop is no mere coincidence. The cabinetry is lined with pieces of both Japanese and American WWII memorabilia from Innes' personal collection, who has been tattooing for 11 years. Baker spent a year in the South Pacific learning about the history of tattoo indigenous to that region, as well as the process and tools involved.

Pearl Harbor Gift ShopThe shop is even affiliated with the "Ace of Clubs" (a.k.a. "The Alleged Imitation of Percy Waters Tattoo Club"), a network of Canadian, artist-run tattoo shops, which in name, pays homage to Percy Waters, a 1940's tattoo artist and supplier who, to this day, plays an important role in the stylistic and mechanical development of tattoo culture.

Even the reference to Pearl Harbor in the shop's name alludes to more than simply the bombing of the American port city in WWII. As shown on the t-shirts that are sold at Pearl Harbor Gift Shop, the phrase "Remember Pearl Harbor" harkens the day of the traditional, do-it-yourself approach to tattooing that inspires Baker, Innes and Whittall.

Pearl Harbor Gift ShopAll of their designs are done by hand. All of the flash lining the walls is hand-painted, and all of the prints are hand-screened on the press upstairs. Many of the tools used in the shop even incorporate the artists' own unique designs or constructions. I'd be surprised to find something in the shop that either Baker, Innes or Whittall didn't do on their own.

As Innes mentioned to me, that constructionist ethic is an important part of Pearl Harbor Gift Shop, differentiating it from the other shops in town. In the traditional way, Innes and Baker source their tattoo needles and tools from other artists, as opposed to the cheaper (and often lower quality) routes of e-Bay or Chinese manufacturers. Additionally, being the artists and owners of the shop lends a certain level of care to the shop that is missing in other tattoo spots around town.

Pearl Harbor Gift ShopAs Innes told me, "The [shops] owned by non-artists don't care about their product. It brings the quality of tattoo down. It's bad for everyone - customers, tattooers and the community at large....[owner-artists] generally want to make sure that everyone [in their shop] is doing good tattoos and knows about tattooing as well."

Baker agrees, adding that, "Tattooing really is a craftsmanship." Having tattooed since 1981, and originally an owner of Tat-A-Rama, Baker subsequently went on to found a tattoo parts manufacturing company. Unfortunately, Baker and that company ended up going their separate ways. But, as he so optimistically told me, "The gift in that is that I am tattooing again."

Pearl Harbor Gift Shop"I love the process...and, my interest is in doing what people want and doing a good job of it." That approach is instilled in those he works with, and as I could see through simply speaking to Baker about his life and work, he not only cares deeply about his craft, but also about those who allow him to decorate their bodies with his work.

He emphasizes that the tattoo is really about the individual, and so, it's the individual's choices that always take priority. That concern for his art and clients (along with the cleanliness, quality of work, and collective experience of Baker, Innes and Whittall) is a definite reason why I would recommend that any tattoo enthusiast, young or old, clean-skinned or covered from head-to-toe, check out Pearl Harbor Gift Shop.

Pearl Harbor Gift ShopI asked Innes and Baker if they had any advice for "tattoo virgins" such as myself. Innes suggested that for any large tattoos, have a couple of consultations first. Try to stay away from the hands, neck and face (he won't do them, unless you are already heavily tattooed). And, your girlfriend's (or boyfriend's) name is pretty much just bad luck.

Baker, on the other hand, put it pretty simply: "If you can't stand not having a tattoo, it's time to get one." Sage advice.

Pearl Harbor Gift ShopHourly rates start at $150.00 and there is a minimum tattoo price of $80.00.
Pearl Harbor Gift Shop is located at 24 Kensington Avenue, in Kensington Market.

Discussion

61 Comments

Ryan / June 3, 2010 at 12:17 pm
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great shop and awesome people working there

the article needs a photo of Bill & Glennie though!
corina / June 3, 2010 at 01:02 pm
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yay daniel!
Jordan Nahmias replying to a comment from Ryan / June 3, 2010 at 03:44 pm
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I know! Unfortunately, Glennie wasn't there that day though, and Bill didn't want to take a pic without her.
BitMedler / June 3, 2010 at 04:06 pm
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The gift here is to the city, Just when it seemed tattooing in this city - with once one of the most talented pool of tattooers in one city I'd hazard to guess - had taken the WalMart path, Bill, Glennie and Daniel remind us that this is a craft... an art... and not accessories.

Good read too. Well done.
JR / June 3, 2010 at 04:55 pm
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"Even the reference to Pearl Harbor in the shop's name alludes to more than simply the bombing of the Japanese port city in WWII"

Ummm, last time I checked, Pearl Harbor was in Hawaii...
Phillip DeHaginas / June 3, 2010 at 05:19 pm
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I got a tattoo in here once but then I started to get bloody eyes from all the toxins they pump into the air. Or maybe it was the salad from the nearby cafe. Either way, this place left a weird taste in my eyes.
Jordan Nahmias replying to a comment from JR / June 3, 2010 at 05:32 pm
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Ha. Yes, of course you are correct. My mistake - I was in Japan thinking mode and just put "Japanese" in.
Sandra P / June 3, 2010 at 05:37 pm
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Wow it's so colourful in there. It reminds me of a dream I once had with a lot of colours. I might have been daydreaming in a field or something. I need to get to this place and try getting a tattoo if my father will let me. Until then, guess I'll just daydream. And hahaha, Japan no Pearl Harbour I think maybe you saw the Ben Afflek movie and f4ll asleep too :) lol
Cravis replying to a comment from Sandra P / June 3, 2010 at 05:42 pm
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Why would you watch that Ben Affleck movie. He is such a whiney baby. I like Matt Damon way more. He is much more handsome and has a bigger (you know what)...I've seen it!!!
Akemi replying to a comment from Jordan Nahmias / June 3, 2010 at 05:43 pm
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Disgusting
J-rock / June 3, 2010 at 09:36 pm
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great idea, but wouldn't it require actually getting a tattoo before you could "review" a tattoo parlour? Just a thought.
regardless, looks like a nice place. Toronto tatts are so over priced though, damn.
Ryan / June 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm
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"Good tattoos aren't cheap and cheap tattoos aren't good."
Marc / June 4, 2010 at 02:23 pm
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This place needs to go, be bleached corner to corner inside, and instead should be replaced by a cafe or something for everyone and useful. Something nice.
asz / June 4, 2010 at 09:57 pm
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i got a half shelve done by Danial when he was at good times design, he has to be one of the best tattoo artist i have ever seen
Matt / June 7, 2010 at 09:37 pm
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This shop is bold, bright, and brand new! Everything is very clean, and Daniel is one of the best in the business. I don't know much about the other artists personally, but I highly recommend you come see the shop for yourself.
Michael / June 8, 2010 at 04:55 pm
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Glennie has done three tats for me and I can say, without a doubt, she is a true artist.

You Rock, Girl!
KJ replying to a comment from Marc / June 8, 2010 at 04:56 pm
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Are you for real dude? Here's a thought maybe you can go around town and make a list of all the places that should close because you for some reason don't agree with their reason for being and the inconvenience factor to you for having seen them.

Then, please by all means kill yourself.
Michal / June 14, 2010 at 11:27 am
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I had a tattoo done by Dan on Sunday and he made it a really amazing experience. Thanks Dan! The shop is really well maintained, calm and it's obvious everyone has done their homework. They're also really accommodating, which I appreciated.
Lucas Ford / July 7, 2010 at 04:24 am
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You guys are a great inspiration..... yardsticks some may say.
Sam / September 29, 2010 at 11:48 am
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I see Bill, He is sweet and an amazing artist. Worth every penny, he is punctual and profesional. All Class! My sleeve is amazing and I get constant compliments on it. I have sent many people to see him and they are all pleased as punch.
V / December 14, 2010 at 11:53 am
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I got my first two tattoos there this past Sunday and India Amara did an amazing job. I would highly recommend this place. Because they were my first tattoos I was a little jittery during the first 5 minutes and India was patient and nice with me, eventually I got used to it and the pain wasn't all that bad really.
Mark / April 23, 2011 at 06:44 pm
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Dan did my first tattoo there and Glennie did a couple as well. I am getting them to help me design several more and I can't wait to get back in the chair. This is a great, clean, shop with talented artists.
Laura / May 12, 2011 at 10:18 am
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I've just gotten tattooed by Glennie and am looking forward to my next appointment with her!
Brian / May 12, 2011 at 10:22 am
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Great shop. I was tattooed by India and she was fantastic to work with. The rest of the staff was very welcoming and friendly as well, which erased the intimidation factor that some shops seem to have (and proudly so it seems).
Jen / May 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm
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I have worked with Dan and he comes highly recommended. Clean and professional; laid-back and inviting. It was a great experience!
Tea / May 13, 2011 at 10:39 pm
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Is this the same Glennie that used to work at New Tribe on Queen St West way back when, approx 2006? (Loved her work back then, would love to get another tattoo by her...)
jim mcbay / June 20, 2011 at 05:38 pm
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The gem of Kensington, is the Pearl, my arm is alive with color! thanx, Bill
Amy replying to a comment from Marc / July 25, 2011 at 08:34 pm
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Most tattoo shops are cleaner than hospitals. if a tattoo shop screws up with their cleaning they know that they will get shut down and sued. if a hospital screws up the ministry covers it up... so i dont know why it needs to be bleached down


and really what is this place doing to harm you. no one is forcing you to get a tattoo or piercing. no one is forcing you to look at people with tattoos or piercings. people like these guys add to the economy just like the cafes and other restaurants do. possibly even more because a good shop with good artists bring in more money than a lot of family businesses do.
Naomi / August 4, 2011 at 04:29 am
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Question!!! It says that the tattoos start at $80. But then it says that the hourly pay is $150. So you pay $80 for the actual tattoo itself, and then $150 for every hour that the artist spends tattooing you? I was just wondering, because I want to get a tattoo, was thinking about checking this place out, but I've never gotten one before so I'm a bit confused...wow that's a lot of money.
Eun Ji replying to a comment from Naomi / August 10, 2011 at 12:10 am
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'Hourly' is dependent on the size of the tattoo. If the tattoo is relatively small, and won't take a lot of time, it'll end up being about $80, which is pretty much the standard in Toronto. However, the larger/more intricate the tattoo, the more labour-intensive it'll be to get done, which means a higher price.
Vi / August 24, 2011 at 08:31 pm
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I chose Pearl Harbor because of BlogTO and I love it there. Just recently got tattooed by Bill and he was great! So accommodating and super nice :) I felt silly asking his name as I didn't recognize who he was. The shop itself is fantastic with all the WWII pictures in the display counter and the retro portraits and sketches...just couldn't stop looking around.

I can honestly say this tattoo is my favourite of all my tats and I hope to get another tattoo done by Bill, in colour, in a month or so
L / August 25, 2011 at 10:59 am
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Daniel Innes is amazing!! I love my new tattoo.
Jerry replying to a comment from Marc / November 30, 2011 at 05:13 am
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wtf kinda comment is that?
Anita / January 9, 2012 at 01:17 am
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In search for an artist that will spend the time to here my story understand and feel the emotion behind what I want displayed an my skin but more importantly help me mature my general tattoo thought into something I love and relays ...me with capturing the emotion behind with the artistic display I want the world to see...is this the place I need to go for that experience?
Tony La Selva / January 14, 2012 at 12:50 am
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I have been getting tattoos from Bill Baker since his days
at Tatarama. He is a brilliant artist. Anyone that he decides to
work with is clearly greatly talented as well. Bill is the Godfather of modern tattooing in Canada. A real legend. What
a gift we have been given to have him working in a shop again. An artist, a scholar, a historian, he truly takes pride in his work. Those of us that he has worked on are truly fortunate individuals. Many years of success to Bill et all at Pearl Harbour Gift Shop!! Respect always...T..O..N..Y.
scal / February 11, 2012 at 04:04 pm
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hi bill! great shop,i'll visit next time im in t.o.
Chad globe / February 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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Glenni did both of my tats in dedication to my grandma and my mom.. She did an amazing job. Anyone that doesn't like this shop should not be getting tattoos.
Kanika / February 22, 2012 at 10:13 am
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My sister and I went for some tattoos yesterday. These were my first two pieces and I was so happy with the results. Anytime I called with questions the receptionist was really nice. Lissa worked on both of us, and we both love what she did! The shop is gorgeous and the atmosphere was really laid back. The both of us will be going back next month! Thanks Pearl Harbour & Lissa!
Savannah / March 2, 2012 at 03:12 pm
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Bill Baker is an absolute legend. He is the sole, driving force behind clean, well-done tattoos. He exudes energy, has been tattooing longer then most of us have been alive and he has more talent then anyone else in the country.

He is original machine builder in Canada, he can tattoo any style and he is happy to talk with anyone. Toronto can consider themselves well off to have such a prolific tattooer. He is a force. And to have behind him Glennie, Dan and India is incredibly powerful. AND Tim Pausinger is moving from Germany to work there. That alone should speak to the drive and talent that fills that shop.

I would consider moving from vancouver to toronto just to get tattooed by them more often. Amazing work, amazing history. The west coast is jealous.
HT / April 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm
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This is a great little place. I was here a little over a week ago to get my very first tattoo. The people were kind and answered my questions. I was glad they did walk-ins as I was able to get mine done without waiting very long. Lissa worked on my tattoo and she was great. I absolutely love it. Since it was my first tattoo, I was a bit nervous but she made me feel at ease. Thanks Lissa! Looking forward to my next one!
Alan / April 17, 2012 at 02:27 pm
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This is a great write up. I've been wanting a Second World War tattoo for years to honour my Grandfather. I don't think there's a more fitting place in all of Toronto to have it done than at Pearl Harbour. Glad to see they're top of the heap.

Thanks!

Bobbi / May 24, 2012 at 02:10 pm
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I love BILL BAKER!!!!!!
Elisabeth / November 9, 2012 at 08:03 pm
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Does anyone know how old you need to be to get a tattoo here? I'd love one, and yes, with parental consent and presence etc. Thanks everyone! :)
VC / December 18, 2012 at 12:04 am
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I've been tattooed across Canada over the last 30 yrs and this is probally one of the best shops I've ever been in. Not only is it beautiful but everybody is genuine and friendly. There is true honor in their art here.
I've had numerous tattoos from good tattoers across the country but Bill Baker sets a new standard of quality. A perfectionist & an artist....what more do you want....and a nice, friendly guy! I will no longer go to ANYBODY else. Worth every second of the wait!!!!!
Lisa / January 20, 2013 at 04:38 pm
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Had the pleasure of my first tattoo done here. Couldn't have gone better. The people made me feel extremely comfortable and Bill was amazing. It was a great experience and I look forward to seeing them again soon.
Benet replying to a comment from Marc / January 27, 2013 at 02:14 pm
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There are 18 million cafes in this city. In Kensington alone there's like 20 bars and cafes. You want close down the best tattoo spot in town for another?

You're an idiot.

Who the hell comes on a review page to trash talk tattoos anyways?
Martin / July 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm
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hey am from Trinidad & would love to come checkout your shop next am in Toronto have some ink i would like to have but would like to the cost so can i get a email address so i can send you my design so you could let me no the cost
Minh Dao / July 18, 2013 at 06:07 pm
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Great list, will definitely have to check out some of these shops!
Shameless plug...

Looking to get tattoo or find new artists and shops?
GO TO TATTOOHERO.COM | GET INSPIRED.
Rebecca / July 30, 2013 at 11:18 am
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Do they pierce? Like.. Belly buttons?
Not super happy / September 18, 2013 at 02:00 pm
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After reading this article I went into the Pearl early on a Saturday for a walk in. I was hoping to get an appointment with India but missed it by one eager patron. I ended up getting the last appointment of the day with Lissa. She was nice/friendly enough. I was getting a medium sized tattoo on my upper chest (by the shoulder, partially on the clav). I have "darker" skin, so she warned me that the colour may not be a bold as I wanted but it could be retouched in a couple of months. After 6 weeks, I could tell there was something wrong, it wasn't infected but there appeared to be multiple areas that weren't healing and some pretty obvious "blow out" near the armpit. I went in to see her again to get her opinion and she basically blew me off. She pretended she didn't see anything I was pointing out and basically blamed the extended healing on my complexion, the sun (fully covered throughout the healing process btw), my looking at it too often etc.

After 3 months, and not much change I went back in to ask if anyone could give me some suggestions and another artist who happened to be there while she was inking me initially. Looked at it, and hesitated a bit, but eventually said "Well... it's healed. Looks pretty good to me." Lissa walked in shortly after, recognizing me she immediately became passive aggressively defensive, before I said a word. Looking at my obviously heavily scarred tattoo and saying "So what's the problem?"... and in come the nonsensical explanations... "It's not finished healing, "your" skin takes longer to heal.", "Have you gotten a tan?" "Did you pick at it?" "I told you the colour wouldn't show up on your skin." "It is fully healed and I don't see the issue?" "What is it you wanted to hear??" "You're looking at it too much (AGAIN! It's on my damn chest!)"

After doing some research and visiting another artist, I know now that it is permanent scarring and both that and the blow out was caused by her going far too deep with the needle... which also explains why it was more painful than it needed to be.

I would have been a lot happier after having spent a lot of money and having something very meaningful ruined, if she had just been up front on my first and/or second return visit. Now i'm just pissed.
Jade / September 24, 2013 at 04:02 pm
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Got a rib piece done here last summer by Tim Pausinger. It was one of the more painful tattoos I have but I was super comfortable here and it was a great experience. Love how the final piece turned out, Tim is amazing at his style!
eden replying to a comment from Not super happy / December 10, 2013 at 05:48 pm
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all i needed to hear really. all these great tattoo parlours seem to fall short when it comes to ethnic skin. shame, the shop is lovely. thank you for your review.
Dave / December 28, 2013 at 08:14 am
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@eden I don't know if you've been to the shop but there's a guy there who works the reception sometimes and he is of a darker complexion, who has vivid colour tattoos. I think he's gotten the work done at the shop
Brenna / January 15, 2014 at 07:42 am
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Hello colleagues, its wonderful piece of
writing about educationand fully explained,
keep it up all the time.
Lisa / February 22, 2014 at 02:43 pm
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Do they do tattoo removals?
Sammy / February 23, 2014 at 04:05 pm
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I went to Pearl Harbor about 10 days ago to get my first tattoo. I knew that I wanted India Amara to do my piece (a quote on the top of my right shoulder), and I saw that she did walk-ins on Saturdays.
I was very nervous and jumpy at first, but India's energy is so powerful and relaxing that I found it hard to remain scared for too long. She has an amazing presence and really knows what she's doing and how to take care of you.
The people who worked there were fun and friendly, and my experience was amazing. I know where I'm going for my next one(s)!

Cheers, Pearl Harbor, you're doing great!
Reshma / April 23, 2014 at 03:34 pm
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I just got a tat by Lissa yesterday and I love it! Have previously got one by Dan and got my very first tat done by Bill so definitely a Pearl Loyalist! I would not even think of going anywhere else!
Useful Information / May 17, 2014 at 02:42 pm
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Just a heads up...their minimum charge is $100, not $80 like stated in this article.
TRC replying to a comment from Lisa / June 13, 2014 at 04:29 pm
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We do!
TRC replying to a comment from Lisa / June 13, 2014 at 04:33 pm
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We love good tattoos and their artist, art has always been subjective. But we're here to help for removals or fading for a cover up. http://www.tattoo-removal-canada.com
randy baldelli / July 31, 2014 at 10:31 am
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I want to have a portrait of both my parents looking over my daughter can you let me know who does the best portraits

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