Optimism is permanently etched into the expression of Chronic Ink lead artist Tony Hu’s face.
A fresh coat of paint, and a new location at Mt. Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue East — where Love to Dance studio once was — have the 29-year-old beaming.
It’s a busy February afternoon, and 12 artists have their needles buzzing over human canvasses amid the plethora of awards the shop displays. The tattoo parlour moved from its Yonge Street and Orchard View Boulevard digs partially because the lease was up and they needed more room for a growing staff.
“We all like the new spot. It’s a lot more open, brighter, and we can see each other, and what we’re doing,” Hu said. “It’s easier for us to inspire each other.”
Even better is the impending arrival of an LRT. The shop is right next to the future Mt. Pleasant stop, and Hu admits Chronic Ink is thrilled to be ahead of the wave of new businesses that will arrive post construction.
“A lot of stores have shut down because of the construction, but eventually they’re going to come back,” he said. “A few years later, if you’re going to move here, it’s going to be impossible.”
Hu started in 2010 with Chronic Ink at their operation in the Pacific Mall, and also travelled to Shanghai, China to learn from respected Shanghai artist, Cang Long. Hu specializes in Asian style art, which includes dragons, koi fish, foo dogs and the classic Chinese theatre masks — devils included.
As for why Chronic Ink is still cozying up to midtown Toronto residents, it’s all about the demand.
“Let’s say downtown Toronto is pretty packed. There is a tattoo parlour on every corner, but in midtown (the industry) is pretty new,” Hu said. “There are a lot of offices and people there always love to get tattoos.”
There are not just offices, but schools in the vicinity, and Hu assures Chronic Ink only leaves their mark in those who are 18 years and older.
A genuine love of his crafts flashes in his eyes as he describes what he enjoys most: back work and the clients’ happy faces with their new ink.
“I need to make sure the client is proud of what I’m doing,” he shared.
A quote on the ceiling above the stairs leaves clients with a parting shot of Chronic Ink’s wisdom. “Good is the enemy of great”.
It’s the permanent design for a business with humble beginnings.
“We’re not only trying to focus on our skill but for growing, and attracting more talented people because only people can grow the company,” Hu said.