Chicago gets inked by new tattoo shop

By Steven Schnarr

Black curtains hang from the ceiling by chains. Mirrors line the walls with black leather chairs placed around the room. Boxes containing flat-screens lay on the floor waiting to be hung. The room buzzes with the sound of a tattoo gun.

That was the scene three weeks after the opening of the new tattoo shop downtown, which is aiming to be known as a “high-class” tattoo shop.  Along with that, it might also be getting its own reality show similar to the popular TLC show, “Miami Ink.”

The shop, Windy City Ink, 166 W. Division St., opened on Aug. 13. Owner Gary Parisi said he could not comment on which network would be airing the show but expects to start filming in the next few months. Windy City also has flat-screen digital catalogs and plans to open up a laser tattoo removal shop next door-expensive endeavors most tattoo shops won’t invest in.

Parisi has worked in the tattoo industry for 12 years with seven of those years at Jade Dragon, 5331 W. Belmont Ave. Windy City Ink is the first shop he has owned, as he said he was tired of working for someone else.

“I did the research and saw that there was no tattoo place in the downtown area,” Parisi said.

The shop is located 1.2 miles north of the Loop and has served about 10 customers a day since it opened, Parisi said, and he expects it to double in the upcoming month.

The shop is open until 2 a.m., and Parisi said customers can bring in iPods or MP3 players to play.  Though many shops have a private room or two, it’s rare to have curtains hanging around every station, like Windy City does.

But what may be unique to this Chicago shop are the flat-screen catalogues which should be installed by Sept. 20. While other Chicago shops have “flashracks” to look through designs, Parisi said, the flat-screens are clean, efficient, fast and categorized.

Jerrett Querubin, 24, who was flown in by Parisi from Albuquerque, N.M. to finish his apprenticeship, said Windy City’s goal is to be a high-class tattoo shop, almost like a salon. But Parisi decided to open early because he could still do business while doing construction, he said.  The staff is still working toward their goal of making the shop immaculate and professional.

Although it may seem odd to open a removal shop next door, Parisi said he has his reasons.

“There are a lot of people who come in here who have made mistakes by getting tattoos at house parties and through friends,” Parisi said. “They want to either cover them or remove them. There’s a big market for it.” He said he does not expect that it will scare away any business.

Querubin said the shop has a goal to bring in athletes, movie stars and musicians.

“A lot of the time when high-class people want to get a tattoo they don’t know where to go,” Querubin said. “We offer a lot of anonymity and professionalism.”

Parisi said he’s trying to revolutionize the industry by making a career of being a tattoo artist. He gives his employees benefits, a retirement plan and vacations, which is a rarity in the tattoo industry.

In one advertisement for the shop they have been doing every weekend since opening, girls wearing body paint promote the shop with fliers at bars.

“The girls are completely naked,” Parisi said. “It’s the first thing you’re going to remember when you wake up in the morning. Even if you were drunk, you’ll pull out the card and think, ‘Where did I get this from? Oh yeah, there was this girl naked as hell with big t—–s flappin’ around.'”

Joel Meister, who recently went to Windy City Ink, walked around the shop excitedly without his shirt on. He said he left another shop that had closed at 5 p.m. and ended up at Windy City Ink. The tattoo on his side was about 6 inches in size, of a detailed anchor and a skull, with a banner reading “Dead men tell no tales.” For $200, he said the tattoo was worth the price.

Querubin said the prices are comparable to other shops, but may be a little higher.

“‘Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good,'” Querubin said. “We all take pride in what we do here-we have a passion for tattooing.”