Co-Owner and Manager of Tattoo People in the Annex, one of Toronto’s most unique shops. Tell us a little bit of the history of your shop and how it came to be today?
The story of Tattoo People goes back many years before its inception in the Annex in 2014. My partner, Khan opened his first studio in Hongdae, the artistic centre of Seoul, South Korea back in 2004 and shortly after, a second Tattoo People in his hometown, Busan. At the time, tattooing was not a well-respected profession in Korea and he had to operate underground, moving studios every couple of years to avoid law enforcement seizing his equipment and burdening him with hefty fines. His family was strongly opposed to his career choice and style of living for many years as they wanted the best for him and couldn’t see this as a viable future. However, it was in this world that he grew his passion, determination and dedication to his craft and built a family of artists around him that have remained a part of our lives ever since. When we first met, I was an English teacher at a private elementary school in Seoul, didn’t have any tattoos and had no idea I would end up running a studio with him here in Toronto. Growing up under the influence of my entrepreneurial immigrant father, I did however, always imagine myself running a small business related to fashion or the arts. I got a B.A. in Business Communications at Brock University near my hometown of Jordan Station and it was in those years that I decided I would travel, see the world and learn more about different cultures and ways of living. I moved to Korea shortly after graduating and stayed for 4 years as I had fallen in love with the country and a certain broad-shouldered, deep-voiced tattoo artist who made me feel like I was a part of something special from the day I met him.
When we learned that we were going to have our first child, we quickly decided that we wanted to be in Canada and spent the next few years moving back and forth, figuring out how and where we could settle. Khan began his journey in Canada at Bamboo Tattoo in Etobicoke and soon realized this was a culture that respected his art and offered a more stable future to raise a family doing what he loved. Having run his own shop for many years under very different conditions, he recruited me to join him in setting up Tattoo People Toronto and has so far been a wonderfully challenging, incredible journey as business and life partners.
How do you foresee your brand growing over the next few years?
Since arriving permanently in Toronto 8 years ago, we have worked non-stop to grow our brand into a shop that is not just recognized and respected in Toronto, but globally. We are constantly seeking ways to attract and grow talented artists from near and far as well as working to elevate the experience for our clients and followers. The last couple of years have been challenging to say the least, both personally and professionally, but I believe we have managed to come through these hardships stronger than ever and ready for anything. Being forced to shut down for 11 months due to COVID lockdowns was no joke, but it did give us an opportunity to step back and really evaluate what is important so we could decide how to move forward. We have an amazingly talented team and we see so much opportunity for growth as we put our heads together and get back to doing what we love.
How did the community in the Annex influence you?
We had little idea what kind of community existed when we first set up shop here in 2014. The two of us happened to drive by and see a ‘For Lease’ sign in the window of 1077 Bathurst during one of many hunts around the city for the perfect space. We were open to any neighbourhood as we wanted to be more of a destination, not a random walk-by type of shop, although we always welcome those too!
We totally lucked out.
This little corner has become everything to us. We live here, raise our 3 kids and have settled here for good after acquiring and completely gutting and renovating our current location a few doors over from the original space. We have so many interesting and deeply artistic neighbouring business owners and friends here that I have so much respect and appreciation for. The warm welcome and constant encouragement from the community has helped keep us going. We feel a strong connection to the area and a responsibility to help it grow in a positive direction.
What cannabis products are you using right now?
I have a serious sweet tooth so edibles are the way for me at the moment. The Japanese Citrus Yuzu gummies from Wana are my favourite and splitting a 2-pack with my partner after work and the kids are in bed is the perfect way to wind down and have a good laugh. I will be exploring more with CBD for pain relief and low dose beverages for relaxation in the future. The CBD Quatreau Passionfruit & Guava beverage has caught my eye and there are so many options!