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Tattoo artists and hairstylists ready (in fact excited) to see their clients again

Stylists and tattoo artists are ready to serve you, but things will be a bit different thanks to COVID-19
Martin Bourgeois of Studio 613 Electric Tattoo Co. said he has a backlog of bookings to work through now that tattoo shops can reopen. His Kingsway location will be opening June 15. (Len Gillis/

If you've been longing for a new ’do or some fresh ink throughout the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can rest easy knowing that the chance of seeing your hairstylist or tattoo artist is much improved now.

The Ontario government this week announced it was allowing more personal service businesses to re-open and get back to work. The announcement included such services as tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons. 

It was a good news announcement for Sudbury tattoo artist Martin Bourgeois who owns and operates Studio 613 Electric Tattoo Co., a well-known tattoo shop at 1102 The Kingsway. Bourgeois said clients have been calling him to get unfinished work completed as well as to get something new. He said there is a backlog of work to be done, but despite that, the shop will not be open until June 15.

He said his shop has a backlog of two to three weeks of work, but he heard other tattoo studios in the city have up to two months of work scheduled. 

"We are taking a bit of a relaxed approach to this. We will most likely be open this coming Monday. We're taking a couple of days to do some extra cleaning and to see what supplies we need to stock up on. We're making sure everything is in order,” Bourgeois said. “We've double and triple-checked everything. We went through all the regulations the health board has sent us. So, yeah, we're taking a couple of extra days to make sure everything is done properly.”

Bourgeois added that taking extra safety precautions is second-nature to tattooists and piercers because of the inherent risk of blood-borne diseases. He said he and his staff were always aware of the need to protect the client from any sort of contamination as well as protecting the employees.

He said the COVID-19 virus presents a new situation, but it is not something that they can't handle.

"So yes, we do have to take different steps, but not necessarily anything more difficult," said Bourgeois. 

A significant change clients may notice is that there will be no piercings and tattoos done in facial areas, more specifically on parts of the face that would otherwise be covered by a mask. He said clients will be asked to wear a mask and the artist will also be wearing a mask. He said this is based on guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health

"The goal is not only to protect ourselves, but to protect our clients," he said. 

With business being shut down since the second week of March, he said many of his clients have been anxious to get back to the studio. Bourgeois said a lot of people regard getting a new tattoo as a vital social event. He added that he enjoys getting caught up on what is going on in a client's life. Bourgeois said it is common for artists to spend three and four hours with a client for each session, so people get to know each other well.

One change people will notice, he said, is that a support person will not be allowed to attend when a client gets tattoo work done. In the past, Bourgeois said it was common for a spouse or a close friend to be on hand while tattoo art was being applied to a client. Bourgeois said with five tattoo artists and piercing specialist on staff, his shop was always a busy and social area, but that will change.

"From now on it will be a one-on-one experience," he said. 

Another change is that all work will need to be done by appointment and that pre-consultations will be done by social media or a visual medium such as Skype, he said.

Anti-virus precautions are also being taken by Sudbury hairstylist Darlene Gilchrist who said she will be seeing her first post-pandemic client Friday morning.

“I am wasting no time. I was in the salon all day today, sanitizing and cleaning, so I am ready to go tomorrow morning,” she said. 

As much as Gilchrist said she is familiar with all her clients at Kool Beanz Hair Design, new protocols mean that she and her clients must wear a facemask while they are in the shop. 

In addition to that, only one client at a time is allowed in the salon, there is no active waiting room and no walk-ins. 

Gilchrist adds that she expects to be unusually busy in the next few weeks as she works to catch up with the demands of all her clients. She said she caters to older patrons with equal numbers of men and women.

“I am just as booked with the men as well as the ladies,” she said.

Gilchrist said she is always happy to put her barbering skills to work for the men as well as the more intricate hair-styling requirements for women. 

“The women require a little more work. They are pickier than the men are,” she said, adding her female clients are lining up for cuts, colours and highlighting.

Gilchrist said one of the changes is that she will not be allowed to do any facial treatments or facial waxings of any kind, as per health regulations. 

As busy as she will be looking after hair styling, Gilchrist said there would be extra work involved during the day as she must clean and sanitize each hairstyling station between each session. Even the doorknobs have to be wiped down, she said. And familiar hairstyling magazines have been removed. If you want to read, bring your cell phone. Gilchrist said there is WiFi in her shop.

But Gilchrist added she is looking forward to seeing familiar faces and getting caught up on all the news that her clients want to share. She would not use the word “gossip.”

“But I am sure there’s lot of things to discuss,” she laughed. “I mean we’ve been out for two months so we’re anxious to get into the swing of things.” 


Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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