Sal's Tattoo & Barber Shop
Sal's Tattoo & Barber Shop doesn't cut hair. They used to, a while back, but not any longer. There's just an antiquated barber's chair that sits alone in the front of the shop, a memory of days gone past. Sal's has cut everything else out - no gimmicks, T-shirts or piercings - just straight-up classic tattoos.
Perched technically in Chinatown, Sal's sits unassuming at College and Spadina. It blends in with the Chinatown environ. And when you enter, you get a no-bullshit tattoo experience. A layered-down, "gritty," come-as-you-are shop that houses only two artists, Greg Kidd and Jenny Boulger.
Like many of the city's top tattoo joints, Sal's is a mainstay. First opened in the fall of 1998 by Steven Brazda, now a New York-based artist, the shop originally offered a haircut with its inking. (Something that New Tribe does too). Sadly, it didn't last long.
When Kidd took over the shop in 2004, he liked the theme of combining the old-fashioned barber and tattooing and decided to hold onto the aesthetic, but not the service. Boulger joined shortly after and the two have been running the shop since to a steady clientele, which does service local CAMH patients. "We're here for them, the patients," says Boulger. "They have more of the touching, LA Ink-like stories. It's cute."
When I meet Jenny on an unseasonably warm winter night, the shop is empty. She's wearing a black graphic T-shirt and sipping on a Red Bull. Some Spanish guitar is quietly playing in the background. The vibe is immediately laidback, welcoming. "We're not here to scare anyone away. We don't have this tension when you walk in the door," says Boulger, leaning back in her swivel chair. As a mainly word-of-mouth shop, the clientele is like family. "We try to keep an old school vibe. We like it how it is; we don't really like change. Want to keep as much heart of an old shop as we can."
Technically a street shop fused with custom capabilities, Jenny and Greg's styles differ. They do everything, but Greg's talent lays in portraits and black and grays. Jenny hits up the colourful, "more girly" side. "Neither of us have egos. We're here to give you a good tattoo, that's all." It's a point blank, take-us-or-leave us tattoo experience.
Describing the shop as a working man's shop, all rough and tumble, Jenny and Greg are a little cheaper than your average Toronto tattoo artist. They don't like to rip off their customers, they say, and all tattoos are $120 an hour.
"We are Queen Street tattoos at Chinatown prices."
Sal's Tattoos are $120/hr with a minimum of $60. Store hours: 12-8 Monday-Saturday; 12-6 on Saturday.