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Tat-A-Rama Tattoo Shop

Posted by Ryan Bolton / Posted on March 4, 2011

Tatarama TorontoTat-A-Rama, more than any of the other tattoo shops we've checked out, has a history. Opening its doors for the first time in '87, many of Toronto's top tattoo artists have worked at Tat-A-Rama at one point. There are only a handful of things that keep a tattoo shop around that long:

  • Good reputation.
  • Quality art.
  • Cleanliness and safety
  • Luck.

The latter is the most crucial, argues Eugene, 46, Tat-A-Rama's owner for the past 18 years. "You can always work hard but you've got to be lucky," Eugene says. "I don't know, just lucky. You need the luck."

Tatarama TorontoLocated in the far west end (Kipling and Bloor), Tat-A-Rama is a simple, unassuming storefront in a mini-strip mall. Broken up into five petite rooms, each space has its own flare and style. It's a comfortable shop. There are skateboards, flash tattoo art and paintings splashed on the walls.

Tatarama TorontoBefore we continue on, I want to come back to the luck element. It can't just be blind luck that a small shop in Etobicoke holds some of the most enriched tattoo history in all of Toronto. And it's not, of course. The original owner was Bill Baker, one of Toronto's best known and respected tattooers, who now runs Pearl Harbour Gift Shop in Kensington. After a few years, Bill then passed it on to a guy named Oz, who after three years passed on the store key to Eugene. He's been at the helm since.

Tatarama TorontoTat-A-Rama, it's of no surprise, has since harboured some of the city's best tattoo artists. Guys that now work at Passage, New Tribe, TCB and Imperial Tattoo once worked at Tat-A-Rama, according to Eugene. "Dave Wildenboer [who now runs New Tribe] is the reason I started tattooing," says Eugene. "He used to work here, too."

Tatarama TorontoAfter some more digging into the luck part, I find out more as to why Tat-A-Rama is a mainstay. "Bill Baker is an exceptional artist. And I think in general, you're as good as your teacher. So as long as good artists work here, it's going to keep the reputation going." Makes sense, and more than this, it seems to work. Well, both that and the promise of delivering on a quality tattoo.

Tatarama TorontoAbout 15 years ago - a date that Eugene can't exactly pinpoint - they opened a second Tat-A-Rama shop in the Beaches. It now houses just one artist and a receptionist. "The Queen shop just kind of runs itself," he laughs, as he will simply drop by the shop from time to time.

Tatarama TorontoThere are now five artists at the Kipling shop - a number that once danced around the 16 mark between both shops, before the recession. Tattoos, it appears, aren't recession-proof. "With a tattoo shop, you always have to go with the flow," Eugene says in his typical, laidback fashion.

Tatarama TorontoHaving been around the city's tattoo scene for so long, Eugene has seen a lot change. He recalls when there were only 10 to 15 shops in the city proper. I have to ask his opinion on today's tattoo scene. I open a can of worms, it turns out.

"Every year a new shop opens and every year another shop closes," Eugene begins, hinting at a common occurrence. "I got nothing against other tattoo shops, but there are too many tattoo shops around," he laughs, lighthearted.

Tatarama Toronto"The TV show (La Ink, Inked, etc.) gave people a better view of what a tattoo could be," he openly opines. "But nowadays, because of the TV shows, people are opening tattoo shops left and right but they're not delivering the same quality of tattoos. So it makes tattooing look bad again."

"I'd rather have my guys work from the bottom up than hiring someone that went to a tattoo school. They didn't learn anything, to be honest."

All tattoos range from $120-150 an hour.

Tatarama TorontoWriting by Ryan Bolton / Photography by Dennis Marciniak



Pin Up Parlour / March 4, 2011 at 03:38 pm
I remember growing up and always passing by tat-a-rama on my way to Kipling station, I always had a "one day I'm going in there and getting a tattoo" feeling each time I passed. Today with my sleeves almost done, I've yet to step foot in the place that really introduced me to tattoos in a way...I need to fix that...
Ritaboutit / March 4, 2011 at 04:53 pm
Agreed. Having grown up in Etobicoke, Tat-A-Rama was and still is a local landmark. It's where my, then 40 year old, mother got her first tattoo. I was 15 and she thought it would be cool to get one too. I thought she was nuts and said I would never get a tattoo. I'm now 34 and two tats in, I still get nostalgic when I drive by the little shop. I've never had work done there but it will always remind me of how lucky I am to have such a cool mom.
Jay Decator / March 4, 2011 at 05:49 pm
Nice writeup & pics Euge! The shop's looking good!
Sasha / March 5, 2011 at 01:09 am
Ahhh Yeah!!
Dave W / March 5, 2011 at 08:06 am
One of T.O's original and best! Like it said, we would not have most of the quality tattooers currently working in this city (not just the trendy hipsters of the month) without this place.
Got my first tattoo and tattoo job here in the 80's!
And still still a class and quality outfit run by maybe the nicest guy in the biz!
Bailey / May 12, 2011 at 04:42 pm
I've been tattooed many times by Kris at the Beaches location - LOVE HIM!!
Dustin Wade / May 12, 2011 at 05:48 pm
Eugene has been tattooing me consistently for 18 years. If that's not a ringing endorsement to his work, cleanliness, and shop ethic, I don't know what is. His professionalism is only matched by his personable, understanding nature. And rest assured any artist working in his shop is expectedly no different.
Angie / May 20, 2011 at 11:51 am
I cannot speak highly enough about Tat-A-Rama; very reputable, very clean, and all staff have the utmost friendly demeanor. Eugene is GREAT, he's done all of my tattoos and will do all future tattoos. He has a calming and gentle aura that makes you feel so comfortable before and during the ink, but besides that his talent is truly undeniable. Thanks Eugene!!
Tamara / July 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm
Im getting another tattoo at Tat-a- Rama this weekend and Im pretty sure Ill never go anywhere else ever again. I cant stand how TV has given tattoo artists this rockstar D-bag ego, but you wont find an ounce of it here. Franklin is a killer dude who put up with my abnoxious jokes for 3+ hours and Eugene is so prfessional and actually interested in helping you. I was in for completly different work and asked if they fix other artists crappy tattoos. Not only did he agree they could help me but he got out his pen and started drawing how it could be fixed, THEN he goes and pulls up images on google. And it was his day off! Ive never dealt with the other artists but these two guys are baller and the manceptionist :) is such a sweet and attentive lil guy. GO HERE!
Guy / August 19, 2011 at 01:54 pm
Make sure to ask for Amanda. Oh wait, she can't do tattoos at Tat-a-rama anymore because she'll be going to jail for being part of an organized motorcycle theft ring!
Josh / October 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm
Got tattooed here last year and I love my tattoo!! I was a bit nervous when i first walked in as it was my first tattoo but everyone was very helpful and friendly, If you like clean quality tattoos i recommend these guys!
cbudda budda / May 11, 2012 at 08:45 am
the tattoo studio is looking very good and u can tell that you guys know what yo'll are doing....
I'm a tattoo artist from South Africa, been doing tatz for the past 5 years but i'm currently studying and also saving up to open my own shop (hopefully by the end of ths year.....)..

I must admitt ! your tattoo palour has inspired me so much....i will b travelling abroad ths coming summer, so i might drop by....

Cheers !!!!!!!!!!!!
Yvan / June 29, 2012 at 07:23 pm
Just completed a full sleeve of dc and marvel,Thank you Eugene,great job and I will be back.
shelly wu / July 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm
we are tattoo manufactory , we can provide high quality and resonable price tattoo products for you ,you can go to our website to select products you want , if you want buy ,please contact with me, my phone number is 86-15267377440
Tom / October 24, 2012 at 08:51 pm
I've been going to Eugene for about 8 years now. He is a true artist and very well respected in the tattoo world.
Jenny / July 6, 2013 at 07:48 pm
Eugene has been tattooing me for years. Great, clean, reputable shop. Artist's are fabulous. Check it out!
Vanessa / November 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm
I got several tattoos about 20 years ago and most recently about 6 years ago.
I loved Eugenes artist flair and was excited to get another one soon. I recommended several people that went there.
Most recently I took my daughter for her first tattoo. I called in advance as I know he gets booked up. He said that week he wasn't too busy, but come by anyone could do it, I explained to him I wanted hto do it with him, he said ok, if he was busy he would do it, I'd have to wait, I said no problem.
The next day I took time off of work, picked up my daughter for her birthday tattoo.
When I reached, it wasn't the same place. We were greeted by 3 "workers.". The women of the bunch was rude from the get go. She asked if I had an appt, I explained the situation. She went in the back and said Eugene has a "big job " that came in, I said ok I'll wait. She started getting annoyed saying that no he can't do it. I again explained the situation, and started getting annoyed with the way she was treating me. And said it's just a basic tattoo, anyone can do it. I explained to her that I was comfortable with Eugene. The other worker said "yes it's a basic tattoo and feel offended that you wouldn't think that we would do the job properly." i was confused, I was being treated rudely because they had an ego? I asked them if they had too much business, because I don't see anyone in here like before and they were sitting around on the phone and computer. I asked to speak to Eugene and the girl said he can't talk to me ( Because I was sure he'd clear the air). As I was leaving, the "lady". says "are you going to get it done." I couldn't believe she would have the audacity to ask me.
Then Eugene comes out from the back and says enough, this is bad energy. I said exactly, he says you not them. At this point I was shocked. He said yes my staff isn't wrong. Wow. He sad that he told me anyone could do the tattoo.
Anyway long story short, seems like loyalty doesn't matter, this shop was disrectful.
I guess Eugenes staff sitting around is irritating to him and he's taking it out on the customer. Back when I went, I think the shop was owned by someone else, and much more classier artists worked there. Maybe you should have stayed the artist Eugene, because as the shop owner you lack the skills.
We ended Up getting it done by ARTWORXX tattoo by Joey. He was super clean, great artist and nice personality! Not to mention reasonably priced.
If you like to be disrespected because a shop thinks they have too much business and you like to be overcharged because the artists have a big ego then go there.
For the future I will going back to ARTWORXX.
taylor williams / December 9, 2013 at 06:39 pm
amazing work done at this shop! this is where my whole family goes to get their tattoos and not one problem has happened! super clean amazing art work and friendly as can be.. I got my first tattoo done on my ribcage done by Euge and he made the whole experience great, this is the only shop I will go to for tattoos.
Brian / May 14, 2014 at 11:29 pm
This is where I got my first tattoo (from Eugene) 16 years ago and now I'm researching where to get my next tattoo. Maybe I just have to go back to where it all started :)
Jewel / September 18, 2014 at 06:28 pm
Got a tattoo from Evan! Fucking love him! My first ever. He did matching ones on my two sisters. We did this to honour a loved one. Evan heard us out and was understanding with us newbies. We picked Evan after seeing a bunch of portfolios. He's talented and an all around great guy.
gee / October 19, 2014 at 10:02 pm
grew up in etobicoke always passing the shop and even though it looks kind of shabby from the outside it does not reflect on the quality inside! Got my first tattoos there because I had so many good recommendations from friends who had theirs done there. Friendly staff and excellent work! and amazing pricing !

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