It’s the largest tattoo studio in Canada, the second largest in the world, and it’s owned by two of the most down-to-earth, forward-minded artists in the game. This feature is all about Grim City Tattoo Club, the first shop we’ve had the opportunity to highlight outside of our home state (and country). This past month, we were grateful to have the opportunity to chat with Memphis and Travis Cadeau, married couple, co-owners of this diverse studio, artists, models, and more. Needless to say, the two wear a lot of hats, and we got to learn all about their colorful backgrounds.
Located in Hamilton, Ontario, Grim City Tattoo Club is a” wedding” of Memphis and Travis’s two original shops. The merged establishment began when Memphis and Travis met on the night of Memphis’s shop’s grand opening. A few short weeks later (coincidentally on Valentine’s Day), the two rekindled their relationship, decided to get married, and, thus, “married” their businesses:
“[...] after we got married, we thought we might as well merge the shops, because there was no point in having two separate shops. So, we ended up closing mine down and moving it over into his shop, and basically we took the [best things about my shop and the best things about his] and meshed them together..”
This marks Grim City as a truly unique combination of two distinct individuals. Their business consolidation only adds to the shop’s diversity as it has continued to outgrow itself, improve, and become what it is today. In just four and a half years, Memphis and Travis Cadeau have gone through three buildings to accommodate their crew and develop a name for themselves.
“We were renting before, so we bought our first building. We were there for about two years, outgrew that one, and then in October of last year, we bought the new building and moved in January of this year.”
If you’ve read any of our recent blogs written by Memphis Cadeau, you’ll get a feel for what this studio is all about: vegan-friendly products, professionalism, progressive thinking, and an overall welcoming atmosphere for people of all backgrounds. This welcoming safe space is one of the most striking aspects of the studio, aside from the most immediately noticeable qualities such as its size and enormous staff, boasting a crew of 25 artists. Open-mindedness is key to managing so many personalities, and it seems open-mindedness has always come naturally to Memphis ever since she was ten years old:
“Ironically enough, my dad is actually super against tattoos and piercings. He’s really, really conservative. [...] So, we were in England, and there was this punk kid who had this bright green mohawk and bondage pants and tattoos and tons of piercings on his face; my dad was actually trying to take pictures of him on his old camera, because he thought he was so weird looking. All this did was draw this person to me and, like, instantly I fell in love. Since that moment on, I’ve been trying my whole life to find what that was.”
In her pursuit of discovering “what that moment was,” Memphis has devoted her adult life to the tattoo industry, beginning first as an artist, and continuing onward as a manager. Due to a series of seizures at age 16, she was unable to continue along the path of an artist, and instead decided to utilize her organizational and leadership skills to take on shop management. Consequently, her natural tendency to be open-minded has filtered into the values that define Grim City Tattoo Club.
“[...] A lot of these old-school guys [tattoo artists] are still so stuck in their ways [...] you know a certain type of tattoo artists: for the most part, straight white men. I’m sure you’re aware of this. Girls [in the industry] are starting to become more prevalent. But people of color or not straight people have definitely been left out of this industry for a long time. It’s starting to change and there’s a lot of shops that are starting to hire people [that aren’t just straight white men.]”
Travis, too, reflects Memphis’s forward-minded thinking and is happy to co-own a shop that instills such values. However, don’t be mistaken: “open minded” and “welcoming” should not be interpreted to mean “frilly” or “sensitive.” Both Memphis and Travis are devoted to conveying hard truths in the industry. Memphis recently published a blog with us about hyperrealistic tattoos and the concerns about how they heal over time. Travis, being a seasoned artist, weighed in on some of those concerns:
“They are so new and they’re such a difficult thing to pull off. It’s going to be really interesting to see where it goes. They could last, they’ve got the potential for them, but from what we’ve seen, 90 percent of them don’t have the longevity.”
Rest assured, this kind of honesty is not intended to be “harsh” or “inflammatory.” Rather, it’s intended to give clients reasonable expectations so they can leave Grim City Tattoo Club with a tattoo that makes them happy. The marriage of blunt honesty and open-mindedness is a refreshing one, and clients can schedule an appointment without fear of being either ostracized or deceived. What’s more, clients can expect to find at least one artist who can give them the custom piece they seek. With a team of over 25 comprised of artists with very different styles, it would be hard not to find a good match.
“Because we have so many artists, we have so many different styles; and because we have so many different styles, it means we have so many vastly different personalities.”
Perhaps most importantly, Grim City Tattoo Club is all about maintaining a work atmosphere that is light-hearted and fun. Travis explained in detail the large family-like sensibility that is unique to Grim City Tattoo Club:
“When we hire people, we hire [based on] potential and attitude. It’s that attitude of it not being just a job; it’s a family, it’s a lifestyle, and that’s basically how we run it. When you do that, everyone’s always pushing everybody to be better and, you know, be happy and enjoy themselves and make it a fun atmosphere. It’s awesome when all the guys… they work on their day off quite often.”
Memphis and Travis Cadeau had plenty more to say about vegan and environmentally-friendly products, their modeling promotions, and being honest in the industry through blogs and social media. To check out our full interview, please click the link below.