Monday, August 3, 2015Light Rain 18°C

TCB Tattoos

Posted by Ryan Bolton / Posted on November 6, 2010

TCB TattooTCB Tattoos has walls that are splashed with art. And tattoo designs. That's the first thing I notice. Second thing I notice is that it's a narrow store, but this is made up for in its length. It's a slender yet long shop in the sense that I can't see the back as I stand at the front. The third thing I notice is some dude, just coming in from a smoke break, telling me that TCB is the best in the city. I nod my head, slightly taken aback. Then Andreas Merrill, one of the store's owners - the other is Scott McEwan, a well-known tattooer in the city - is shaking my hand and leading me to his tattoo station, at the back of the shop.

TCB TattooThe whole room buzzes - quite literally with tattoo guns - and some lo-fi rock is playing over unseen speakers. The store is broken up, divided with white mini-rooms that are all open-concept. This was intentional.

TCB Tattoo"At a lot of [tattoo] shops you walk in and there's a front room and you really don't see anything that happens behind closed doors," Merrill tells me as the dude from earlier is getting work done in a booth beside us. "When we did this, we wanted it to be a little more open; where you can interact with people upfront."

TCB TattooAs I'm looking around at the art-slash-trinket-covered walls, Merrill tells me about a bit of the shop's history. He's been tattooing for almost 20 years now, but got his start in the States, Texas specifically. It's there that he befriended McEwan, and when Merrill moved with his family to Toronto, finding a quality shop that was hiring was tiring. McEwan and Merrill then opened up a small private shop down the street from their present locale on Queen St. West. Problem was the landlord was a little "bipolar" and they needed to get out. This was back in 2001. In the spring of 2002 they opened up TCB.

TCB TattooTCB does just tattoos. No piercing. And like the other mainstay shops in the city, they specialize in their custom work. "We do a lot of custom work... and it does keep us going." They do walk-ins, but they don't rely on it. But they will squeeze people in when there's time. And the customer base is as diverse as the Bathurst and Queen environ they work in. You get college kids, professionals and day labourers from hour to hour. "But at the same time, those doors have blown wide open," Merrill explains. "Tattoos don't really interfere with people with real jobs. I don't think professional employers are going to rule people out because of visible tattoos. They understand it's the culture and rather get the best person for the job."

TCB TattooAnd although it's hard to generalize his customer base, Merrill explains that an almost equal number of men and females walk through the narrow front door. "That's something that's now consistent."

TCB TattooTCB has a current staff of six tattoo artists and an apprentice. And six is a good number as they used to have more staff in the past couple years "and it was a little much." But all stacked with solid clienteles, they keep busy with a reputation for impressive, brag-worthy custom work. Because, for Merrill and his team, you need to put a lot of work into tattooing. Not necessarily the act itself, although it does, of course, but the respect and passion that comes with the permanent art form.

TCB Tattoo"I try to give every tattoo the respect it deserves. And I have to remind myself of that sometimes."

Tattoos are at a flat rate of $150/hr. Scott's at $180/hr. There's an $85 minimum on all tattoos.

TCB TattooPhotos by Dennis Marciniak.



Ming / November 7, 2010 at 07:10 am
Tatoos, like goatees went out in 1994. Next please.
Michael / November 7, 2010 at 08:51 am
Thanks Ming, you've just saved us all. If only your comment were before the article as a warning.
Alex replying to a comment from Ming / November 7, 2010 at 12:08 pm
yah, cause all those nasty statistics that say that more than 1/4 between 18-50 have at least one (even higher 18-35 are just made up drivel.

Carly / November 7, 2010 at 01:29 pm
Im not going to even touch tattoos being compared to goatees haha.

I got a custom piece done by Jen at TCB in 2007. It was half the cost i was quoted at 3 other places while i was searching for the right artist, and her work was MUCH better. I dont know if she is still working there, but she was great and Honest. tcb seems very strong in tattoo styles, and having an artist for every design style.
Simon / November 7, 2010 at 02:00 pm
I made the mistake of cheaping out on a tattoo at another place. After a disaster of a session I went to Wes at TCB. Not only did he fix it up but he made the idea better than I could have pictured. Now I wont go anywhere except TCB or Seven Crowns (also an amazing shop) for future work.
Another Simon / November 7, 2010 at 02:46 pm
Everyone at this shop is awesome. I have work from Wes and Scott and they both do amazing custom pieces. Definitely recommended.

bullring / November 7, 2010 at 06:06 pm
Tattoos are great for job interviews.
Kat / November 7, 2010 at 06:42 pm
Firstly, it's "men and women" not "men and females". Secondly, most artists at TCB, Andres included start at $160 an hour - if you went onto their website ( you'd see each artist's hourly rate.

Andres has been my tattoo artist for the better part of a decade, and I'll never go anywhere else. All the staff are super friendly, all the work is exceptional and it's an excellent environment.
JD replying to a comment from Ming / November 7, 2010 at 08:23 pm
First learn how to write tattoo and uh no they never went out, it's not spandex spanky! Duh!
Carly / November 7, 2010 at 08:39 pm
Its funny that this blog site is used to inform the general public about toronto as a whole, and im sure there are several categories which the general public has no interest in. my point being; and this is a throw back to kindergarten, if you have nothing nice to say, dont say it at all. its concerning to know that people are willing to go out of their way to make snippy comments that really dont inform anyone about anything other than the fact theyre an asshole. state your opinion if you must, but im prety sure this isnt a debate on whether tattoos are still in or whether your going to get a job with a visible tattoo. its whether or not tcb is a good shop. and it is in the majority of opinions. wake up cyber bullies.
Jess / November 7, 2010 at 11:32 pm
Not a bad article, but FYI, never call a tattoo machine a gun - it doesn't shoot things. "Machine" or "iron" is the preferred terminology.
Wow replying to a comment from Jess / November 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm
Wow, Jess, you're not unbelievably pretentious or anything. Tattoo gun is a known term, and you get the point the author is making. Unbelievable.

And it does technically shoot ink anyway.
hahaha replying to a comment from Wow / November 8, 2010 at 12:38 am
thank you for replying that.
The Remover / November 8, 2010 at 06:14 pm
I can't wait. I am investing in a tattoo removal business. Sooner or later these douche bags will grow up and realize that their Pam Anderson barbwire is no longer cool anymore.
lauren / November 9, 2010 at 09:23 am
Have gotten my last two tattoo's at TCB - both by Jen who is still there. She is so kind and patient and talented. So i agree with this article - only thing that bothers me is now it'll be harder for me to get an appointment.
BItMedler replying to a comment from Wow / November 9, 2010 at 10:28 am
Most certainly one of the best tattoo shops in the city. And we're blessed to have quite a few.

That said, this article is tripe. As are both Ming and Wow's comments. Specifically:

@Ming: Maybe the problem is that you consider tattoos trendy - or did prior to '94 and once everyone started getting one you were no longer "freaky". That's your falut. Tattoos are one of the oldest human art forms and the lack of it in the mainstream the past century is really the oddity. Do some research before you spew trash out yo pie hole.

@Wow: Again, do some research or STFU. It's not pretentious to correct people on terminolgy from a culture they don't understand. First off, Jess is correct. calling it a gun helps promote a negative sterotype that I'm sure Ming fed off of in the early 90's. It is a machine. And these people are artists and craftspeople doing a trade. Have some respect. Second, you're wrong - again. A tattoo machine does "shoot" ink. It INJECTS ink into the dermis.

There's a really neat site called Google that will help both of you apear less ass hatish. Give it a try. :)
Barbie replying to a comment from Ming / November 25, 2010 at 01:58 pm
your A weak minded person with no respect for modern art. Open A book some time and expand that tiny box you call home
goat / January 11, 2011 at 10:19 am
I am going to get a tattoo of a goatee
Marc replying to a comment from The Remover / May 12, 2011 at 01:23 pm
And you, my friend sound like a genius "Pam Anderson barbwire is no longer cool anymore"

learn how to write ahole
Marc replying to a comment from The Remover / May 12, 2011 at 01:25 pm
I was over 30 when i got my first tattoo, i have only had work done by Wes at TCB. The work is excellent that comes out of that shop !! congrats boys
CM / May 13, 2011 at 03:26 pm
best shop in the city.. there are a few others that are close to being on par, but these guys(and girls) are a step above the rest. very pleasant to deal, with good prices for the amazing quality they provide.

if people wanted to trash tattoos, im not sure why they are doing it here.. the only people looking at these blogs would be interested in tattoos i would think

im sure theres a trend hating forum or a troll society u guys could go join.. so go do it there
Richey / May 13, 2011 at 06:00 pm
Got my first (and multiple others) tattoo here. Andreas is an amazing artist and a modern gentlemen. TCB rules. Oh, and like others have mentioned, they will work with you if you are on a budget. Cheers.

mike / August 22, 2011 at 02:50 am
I am pretty sure all those people taking the time out of their day to hate on people with tattoos are just to afraid or cheap to go and get a tattoo. Anyways with that said, TCB is a great place! Got a some work done by Jenny and it turned out GREAT! Gonna go back to her for more work
Greg / November 9, 2011 at 02:01 pm
Thanks to all for the great feed back. We love what we do here at TCB and hope to provide you with quality ink for many more years to come.
Craig / December 15, 2011 at 08:52 pm
I always appreciate a shop that shows off their work. TCB sounds awesome!
Anne Monaco / April 12, 2012 at 04:57 pm
Jenny created my first and only tattoo in March 2012. I am overjoyed with the way she approached my request and thrilled with the final outcome. I look forward to my next tattoo at TCB. Thanks so much, Anne
Jackie / April 29, 2012 at 08:41 pm
Was told that this was one of the top places in Toronto. Unfortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. A back tattoo so poorly done, so mismanaged, so dark and bigger than we decided, I was forced to seek laser treatment within weeks. They have no business treating tattoos with such little value. They let an unexperienced, out of her element "artist" deal with a major back tattoo. This is a place that seems to give real-world experience to young artists that are permanently etched on people's skin. I can't possibly have a lower opinion of TCIB. A disaster that is paid in full, and so much more. And they had the gall to talk to me in disrespectful terms after a job that went so wrong. Just ridiculous. This doesn't come from anger, it is just facts. This place is untrustworthy and is so clearly not taking care of its own business.
Su Z / October 3, 2012 at 07:52 am
Wow what is wrong with some of you people?
Don't like tattoos? Well don't come to a blog about Tattoos especially a specific place! Fucking Idiots!

Now to all you that have been here at this shop. Do any of the artists specialize in Portraits?
Bangers / October 31, 2012 at 01:55 pm
Tattoo machine. No one with any clout would ever call a tattoo machine a 'gun'
i'll be keeping mine replying to a comment from The Remover / December 18, 2012 at 11:58 am
i'm sure your business will flourish, particularly if you continue outspokenly referring to your (potential) customers as douche bags
Word Taster replying to a comment from Ming / June 12, 2013 at 09:51 pm
It's precisely this attitude toward ink that led my Grandpa to give me one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received, when I was 4 & told him I wanted tattoos. Grandpa said, "everyone gets the tattoo they deserve." Think about it. They are not fashion. They are not something you change every season to fit in & be cool. An arm band is not the new tramp stamp, just like green is not the 'new black' (& the reason why the 'tramp stamp' is the hidden 'shame' of soccer moms everywhere.) It is a commitment one makes to something personally meaningful & permanent & the reason I love my 30 year old tats as much as my newest one, including the foot piece Scott M. did for me in '98. I've always wondered what speaks more to the health of a person's self-awareness & esteem; a beautiful piece of incarnate art, or a pair of fake boobs & getting fat sucked out of their butt? Next ignorant, shallow fashion victim with a short attention span please, Ming.
Eli Graham / March 27, 2014 at 09:55 am
Went in for my 1st tat a couple of weeks ago. Didn't know what to expect. The staff were great--friendly, took their work seriously. I couldn't have asked for more. Hadn't planned on a 2nd tat, but now I think I will. James was my artist; he really cared about what he was doing. And, his beard is HOT.
Nell / April 5, 2014 at 08:32 am
After having several friends get work done at TCB, I decided to go there for my first tattoo. GREAT experience. I was greated at the front desk with homemade (by someone's mom) cookies! The artist patiently worked with me on finishing up my design, seeming to care just as much as I did that the design was perfect. Several other artists came and went, giving advice on getting it just right. Everyone was very friendly and professional! I would strongly recommend TCB!
Jon / May 1, 2014 at 02:14 pm
Got a couple of tattoos done by Jenny. One looks super awkward. The other didn't turn out "awesome" eventhough she assured it would. Didn't find her to listen and would put down ideas or disregard them.
Goose / July 29, 2014 at 12:36 am
You have to stand your ground with what you want and not let the artist push his ideas. The work ended up being just what I wanted. After I waited for 2 extra hours to start ( they squeezed someone else in to rude) . I was happy with the work but didn't like feeling I had to give a bigger tip. Paid 400 for 3 hours. I think that is more then what the average person makes. Don't let your customers wait and feel like your not important and maybe you'll get a tip next time. On the fence as if I would go back. There is so many artists and shops. So mostly likely I will try somewhere else.
Eli / August 20, 2014 at 01:45 pm
GOOSE--Are you sure you are talking about this tattoo shop? Just got my 5th tat yesterday, and, as always, my tattooer, James--the guy with the beard--was fantastic, skillful, kind, very professional, and reasonably priced. In fact, everyone there was friendly, helpful, and obviously knew what they were doing. And it is clean. You either caught them on a bad day (hard to believe) or they caught YOU on a bad day. Lighten up. It's a great tattoo shop; I wouldn't go any place else.
Kyle / September 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm
I got a tattoo from @markprata from Toronto Ink. After going to 12 tattoo shops 4 of which are on this list. Marks work seamed to be the best in Toronto to me. Aside from the work the staff was so welcoming and really made me feel comfortable we're other shops didn't really give me the time of day. I had gotten a half sleeve on my left arm of a pheinix and it's amazing. I get commitments everywhere I go. Thanks you Mark Prata and Toronto Ink I truly believe you are the best tattoo shop in Toronto. Do your selves a favour even if you don't get work there you have to atleast check them out. There located about 20 min from the core but worth it. I love my ink and will be definitely go back for more.
Eli / October 30, 2014 at 09:33 am
Watched Southland last night. Dude is telling cop how he is a bad-ass gang member and says as evidence, "I have 5 tattoos!" Wow. I have more than that--does that make me a bad guy? Gee, I hope so, but I doubt it somehow. All tattoos from TCB on Queen--great tattoo shop.
Yup replying to a comment from Jon / December 19, 2014 at 04:55 pm
I can say the exact same thing about my experience with Jenny. She did a very sloppy job. Tried to like her each time I went but always the same thing...didn't listen and didn't take my concerns into consideration. She was friendly enough, for the most part, but it didn't seem genuine. I was not made to feel comfortable or welcome at all by her, and this added to the unpleasant experience. The worst part of it being how badly the tattoos turned out: sloppy, kind of tasteless, rushed and the placement all messed up and completely stupid. It is solely my fault for trusting her, but I wish she'd have given a little more thought to it instead of doing whatever just to get it done. That's how it all felt by the end: let's get it done asap because it's crap anyway. I regret very much not speaking up and trusting her when something seemed off, but like I said earlier, anything I said was not really taken seriously and just sort of brushed off.

The rest of the artists at TCB seemed much more approachable though.

These tattoos will definitely be removed or covered up or something, anything. It's REALLY hard living with tattoos you hate, so if you're a first timer, make sure you and your artist 'click' when you meet, and if they seem kind of arrogant or rude and like they don't really care about what you want...maybe not the right choice. Just because an artist has a great portfolio, it doesn't automatically mean they're the best choice for you. Bad tattoos do happen (mine) and you don't always see it coming.

Add a Comment


Find a Service

Or use the options below to assist you in locating a Service in Toronto.

Search Results

Please select criteria from the dropdown menus above to start your search.


Recent Reviews

Refine the list using the categories below:

Other Cities: Montreal