A cut and colour: Calgary hair salon adds tattooing to its menu of services

Gerard Ortiz

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It’s tiny in size but huge in symbolic pride.

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The small red outline of a Canadian flag on Marilyn Douglas’s ankle is the result of five years of planning and waiting. It was long desired but going to a tattoo parlour wasn’t something the Calgary woman was prepared to do.

“I had been thinking of this particular tattoo for about five years. I just didn’t feel comfortable with other places. When I discovered this was here, it gave me the incentive to jump in and do it.”

This refers to a new tattoo studio that has opened inside Angles Hair & Esthetics in the Brentwood Shopping Centre. Part of the reception area has been turned into a glassed-in studio that allows hair and spa clients to watch the process when the curtains are open.

“Frank (the salon owner) lives in the same complex as me and when I heard about this, I was interested. You have all these perceptions about tattoo parlours. This felt better, safer, and cleaner to me. There are so many positive things about it,” said Douglas.

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Angles Brentwood owners Frank and Donna Rizzuto, left, with tattoo artist Cherie Johnson in their new studio built inside the hair salon.
Angles Brentwood owners Frank and Donna Rizzuto, left, with tattoo artist Cherie Johnson in their new studio built inside the hair salon. jpg

For the record, there are numerous health and hygiene regulation for tattoo shops and licensed ones adhere to them rigorously or they wouldn’t remain in business. But there are women, especially those in middle age, who are still uncomfortable going to one.

Longtime Angles owner Francesco Rizzuto wanted to remove that stigma and provide an option for his clients and others who desire a tattoo but are afraid to step into a parlour. In doing research before committing to the plan, Rizzuto couldn’t find another example in Canada of a hair salon partnered with a tattoo business. Salon Magazine believes he’s the first. So it was important to him to put it front and centre in a bid to move away from the established tattoo culture.

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“I wanted to combine different art forms under one roof. It’s not opening a tattoo studio per se but expanding our services. So many clients said they were interested but intimidated to go get a tattoo so I didn’t want to put it in the back room. I wanted to bring it out of the basement. People want a cool tattoo but not necessarily all the tattoo culture that goes with it.”

“Here, it’s just another art form in the salon. Everywhere you look here, people are creating.”

Marilyn Douglas shows off a tattoo of a maple leaf from the Brentwood Angles salon.
Marilyn Douglas shows off a tattoo of a maple leaf from the Brentwood Angles salon. jpg

Lesia Hildebrandt was looking for a creative approach to designing a tattoo after losing one of her beloved dogs recently. She planned to get a wrist tattoo along with her husband and daughter but that fell apart when she broke her hand. They went ahead without her. After she healed, the Angles studio seemed a perfect fit as she was already a longtime hair client.

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“There are so many places so figuring out where to go is overwhelming. When this place opened up, it was like kismet. It’s not intimidating, it’s a comfortable feeling.”

Cherie Johnson was the tattooist at Angles from opening until recently. She left for medical reasons and is replaced by Drew O’Neill of Drooz’s Tattoos. Johnson said the studio appeals to salon clients because it’s such a familiar environment. About half of the more than 20 customers she had since opening in March were salon clients. And it’s a mixed bag when it comes to what they want.

“It’s 50/50 if they are very sure of their idea or are looking for some help. We sit down and go over it. I’ve had people bring me their own artwork, that’s quite popular. I’ve been asked for medical alert bracelets and commemorative tattoos. Even ‘the mustard man’, whatever that is, and sour patch kids.”

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Rachael Romero shows off her newly tattooed ring finger done by Cherie Johnson at the Brentwood Angles salon.
Rachael Romero shows off her newly tattooed ring finger done by Cherie Johnson at the Brentwood Angles salon. jpg

Rachael Romero was at the mall’s pet food store when she saw the sign. Newly married, she had been thinking about getting a tattoo on her finger instead of a wedding band since she’s a climber and can’t wear one. She had checked out other shops but they didn’t feel right.

“I’ve been interested for a while but the others seemed really intense like with big back tattoos. I wasn’t sure if they’d laugh at me if I wanted something simple and small. “This,” she says pointing to the new, tiny green tadpole on her ring finger, “is exactly what I wanted.”

Tattoos are becoming more mainstream with 38 per cent of Canadians having at least one tattoo. In Canada, women (24%) are more likely than men (20%) to have a tattoo, as are those aged 18 to 34 (36%) when compared with Canadians aged 35 to 54 (24%) or 55+ (8%), according to an Ipsos Reid poll in 2012. Regionally, British Columbians (28%) are most likely to have a tattoo, followed by Quebecers (25%), Albertans (23%), Atlantic Canadians (21%), residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (20%) and Ontario (19%).

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Adding tattoo services to the hair salon, which has operated in the Brentwood space for 22 years, allows for one-stop beauty shopping. Angles also partnered in March with Glow Laser and Spa, offering manicures, pedicures, botox, waxing and tinting, spray tans and laser treatments, including the other side of tattooing — removal.

“Having all us in here together, it’s a pretty big umbrella,” says Glow owner Max Bouchard. He says his laser tattoo removal is a good cross-business with the studio, although it’s more involved. “It’s more expensive than a tattoo and more painful to remove. Be sure what you want.”

Rizzuto said the salon-spa-studio concept is working well and he’s happy with the decision to combine the services.

“It’s a natural fit, yet because it’s so new, most people don’t think of a hair salon when they think tattoo. I’m very proud that it happened in Calgary.”

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