Durham tattoo shops are closed but their community is strong

Greg Woodrow, before COVID-19, tattooing in his new shop, True Believers Tattoo Club.

The tattoo community has taken a hit since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Being unable to have shops open has affected the livelihood of tattoo artists in the community.

“We are eligible for the (federal government’s) CERB benefit, $2,000 per month. However, it doesn’t even begin to cover monthly expenses for our family,” said Greg Woodrow, owner of the True Believers Tattoo Club in Hampton.

The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) provides Canadians with temporary income support if they’re unable to work due to COVID-19.

Tattoo artists like Woodrow and the owner of Whitby’s English Rose Tattoo Club, Nathan Draper, said they have supportive clients who have been pre-paying for tattoos and buying gift cards for when they re-open.

“I was actually just thinking about that and about sending him money for now so he can get through this, I know it’s hard on him,” said one of Woodrow’s clients, Amber Lee-Banks.

Both artists have labelled their shops as ‘clubs’ to create more of a community and a sense of belonging, which they say has helped create loyal clientele.

Woodrow says he applied for the CERB and says it has been helpful, but he is still having to rely on personal funds to fill in the financial gaps.

“Of course we took the money, because it’s money,” said Woodrow. “We’ve been OK so far, stretching any savings we have as much as possible.”

Draper did not comment on his current financial situation. He did say, however, that the pandemic has given him the time to take advantage of the shop’s space to practice his art and continue to improve his craft.

“I’ve taken a lot of positives. Ever since I set up the shop, it’s been busy since day one,” said Draper. “The pause in tattooing has allowed me to sit in the shop and enjoy the space that’s been built there.”

According to a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 22 per cent of almost 11,000 Canadian businesses surveyed saw their revenue drop to $0.

Draper and Woodrow said they are unsure when they will be able to open their shops back up, but for now, they are both grateful for the loyal clientele they have.

“Hopefully we can crush this virus soon and get on with our lives,” said Woodrow.