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Sal's Tattoo & Barber Shop

Posted by Ryan Bolton / Posted on January 22, 2011

Sals Tattoo TorontoSal'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.

Sals Tattoo TorontoPerched 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.

Sals Tattoo TorontoLike 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.

20110118-sals_tattoo05.jpgWhen 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."

Sals Tattoo TorontoWhen 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."

Sals Tattoo TorontoTechnically 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.

Sals Tattoo TorontoDescribing 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.

Sals Tattoo TorontoWriting by Ryan Bolton / Photography by Dennis Marciniak

Discussion

27 Comments

Chans / January 22, 2011 at 06:38 pm
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I have been getting my ink done by Greg for years. Love the place, they really make you feel at home. He'll pop in a movie or put some tunes on to keep you occupied. Keep up the good work! Peace out.
GuaL / January 23, 2011 at 11:49 am
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$120 an hour? Isn't that what that really upscale parlour in Leaside charges?
GuaL replying to a comment from GuaL / January 23, 2011 at 11:51 am
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Soory, Yonge & Eg not leaside. It's called the 7 crowns
Rob / January 24, 2011 at 09:52 am
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Umm, yeah.

Advice to anyone getting a tattoo: check the place out thoroughly! Ask to see the autoclave; don't take their "word" for it that they sterilize equipment (if they won't show it to you, run like hell!).

A reputable tattoo parlor is as clean, if not cleaner, than a doctor's examination room. Gloves, antiseptic, gauze... the works. ALL should be visible while getting a tattoo, and instructions on how to clean the tattoo should be printed out and given to you when you leave, preferably with a small container of cream.

Another thing: a reputable parlot will break the used needles with pliers after use, and dispose of the sharp objects in a hazmat box.

I cannot speak for Sal's, but I still suggest Tat-a-Rama.
Chris / January 24, 2011 at 10:08 am
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Well put Rob. Another point on cleanliness: each tattoo shop should (I say "should" because not all do) have some form of document that shows that they're sterilization certified. Seeing the autoclave is nice but it's pointless if they don't know how to use it.
Dave / January 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm
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China town eh?

Do they use lead based paint?
lindsay / January 24, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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rob: by commenting on cleanliness regulations in this thread, it's almost making it sound like people should beware of this particular shop. Which is not the case. Just because this shop isn't fancy with bright paint, lights & located on queen street doesn't mean they aren't up to code with their cleanliness. A tattoo shop doesn't stay open for almost 13 years if they do not own an autoclave. If you can't speak for Sal's then maybe add your little BEWARE comment in a forum pertaining to Tat-A-Rama.

Isabelle Hémard / January 24, 2011 at 03:36 pm
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you should not be advertising not being expensive, talent and quality comes with a price!.. Even artists need to make a living and should not excuse themselve for wanting to make a living! don't shoot yourself in the foot.
Katie Gale / January 24, 2011 at 03:37 pm
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$120 an hour is not expensive for good work. At all.
Val / January 24, 2011 at 03:41 pm
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I had a small tattoo done here last Feb. on my ankle and they were great.
Cleaniness was good and gave great instructions for care afterwards. A place i would def. recommend to friends. :D
Alex replying to a comment from lindsay / January 24, 2011 at 03:42 pm
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What like "BEWARE, I want to make a general comment designed to educate newbies about what to look for in a tattoo shop, but since there is a 1/10,000 chance you'll be stupid enough to mis-read my comment as a condemnation of a shop I clearly state I haven't been to, I am going to add BEWARE at the beginning"? Like that?
blueblue / January 24, 2011 at 03:57 pm
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people with tattoos are a bunch of posers with low self esteem get a life you lame asses.
Kate / January 24, 2011 at 04:35 pm
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you're right blueblue, we are all posers with low self esteem and we should get lives! i can't believe how much that generalization rings so true! you sound really smart. what is your take on homosexuals and black people? gotta go- my self esteem is at an all time low and the only cure is more tattoos!
t / January 24, 2011 at 05:44 pm
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I went here on 2 different occasions a couple yrs back.
Did not like either. Greg was not helpful, and the second visit, I decided to give Jen a shot. She I believe, had just started out, and not to my knowledge. The tattoo ended up not coming out too great, and my wrist swelled up insanely bad.
This is coming from someone who has many tattoos. My best advice, if you like someone, stick to them, which is why I hunted down the previous artist who did my work and have been seeing them for years since.
Rob replying to a comment from lindsay / January 24, 2011 at 06:03 pm
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@lindsay,

"If you can't speak for Sal's then maybe add your little BEWARE comment in a forum pertaining to Tat-A-Rama."

Honey, my comments apply to ALL tattoo parlors. Consider asking questions about hygiene a public service.
Gustavo / January 25, 2011 at 09:53 am
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Anyone who doesn't investigate a tattoo parlor's cleanliness is retarded.
Danny / January 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm
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Well thank you BlueBalls, I had no idea I had a low self esteem until you mentioned it. Now excuse me while I go cut myself.
pam / January 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm
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I've been to sal's a few times.
Great service, great attention, and great people...especially the apprentice, Matt.
Greg did a wonderful job on a small piece of mine and made me feel extremely comfortable and cared for.

all in all, a great and fun place to get inked.
Tattoo For Girl / February 3, 2011 at 05:40 am
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Hiya : )
Why women and men (society in general) still pre-judge people with tats. girls especially?
I am a 26 year old F, have 10 tattoos, most of which can't be seen on my daily travels. Five To Six during the summer are pretty much constantly on display. I don't strive for attention and i also have a loving boyfriend WITH NO TATTOOS .I get the impression that a lot of people believe that tattooed persons are blind, once we get stared at, even when we return a glance many people carry on staring. When will society change?
Sam / February 10, 2011 at 03:02 pm
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I can't believe anyone could complain about this shop. Greg was highly recommended to me by a few people I knew when I wanted my first tattoo. I was nervous and made sure everything was up to par when I first got there. Greg was friendly, patient and kept pausing to ensure that I was ok (knowing it was my first time), plus he did a fantastic job. Since then I've gotten a few more tattoos and will NEVER go anywhere else! The process of getting a tattoo is about the shop, the vibe, the hygiene and the artist - Sal's has got it all!
Bruce / August 29, 2011 at 12:47 am
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Greg Kidd is a deuche bag.
Ttc / February 15, 2012 at 07:46 pm
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Dude greg is the man he did all my tatttoos he is the best tattoo artist in Canada I recomend him to anybody duuudeee
CRAZY JOE / February 10, 2013 at 09:48 am
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WOW, listen to the rude comments........I was referred to by a friend who has been tattooed by Greg and let me tell you the work is amazing. The tattoo looks better than the original picture. Greg and Dreegz are amazing people. They take the time to help you and answer every question you have. I've been working on a design for my sleeve which has gone through many changes and Greg had nothing but great ideas and patience.
For those of you "People Bashing" please step aside and take a look at yourself.
By the way, I can't wait to get my tattoo done at Sal's, and for your information, I'm already working on my other sleeve to be done at SAL'S TATTOO shop !!!!!!!!
P.S. The boys at Sal's are constantly busy tattooing............what does that mean ??????
Trent / June 16, 2013 at 02:24 am
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People who spell say "deuche" instead of "douche" are douche bags. Greg is the best! He's super talented and down to earth. He and Dreegz make you feel at home. It's not a cash grab and you know you're getting quality, clean work. Yes there is an autoclave - and yes you see them sterilize the equipment and break the needles. That dude who called Greg a douche probably wanted something like barbed wire around his ankle or something racist. Yeah, Greg won't deal with douches like that.
David / July 28, 2013 at 03:24 pm
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Greg's done all my pieces. He does amazing work and I won't go to anyone else!
Ken P. / August 23, 2013 at 06:53 pm
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Discovered this place a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised. It's a small joint run by a couple of really great guys. There's no bullshit here, just the real deal. Outstanding work by super talented artists at a very reasonable price point. Definitely worth checking out. Ask for Dreegz or Greg and tell'em I sent ya...
Dan L. / November 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm
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Greg and Dreegz are two of the best tattoo artists in Toronto. Hands down! Seriously, not just the easy vibe of the place but the talent of these two is unmatched.

Thanks guys!

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