Upscale Tattoo Parlour ‘Black Line Studio’ Launches Expansion with Unique Shopping Centre Location


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High-end tattoo parlour and jewellery retailer Black Line Studio has opened its second location in Toronto’s CF Shops at Don Mills, as it strives to make its products and services more easily accessible to customers on the outskirts of the city.

The company, which opened its first location on King Street West in 2005, unveiled the new boutique in early February. In addition to providing custom design tattoos, the new Black Line Studio location offers services such as piercings, tattoo removal, vitamin drips and carbon facial peels, and sells a range of artwork and jewellery products.

“The concept behind Black Line was to incorporate all of the essentials of the art world under the same roof,” says Ion Nicolae, owner of the company. “We are part art gallery, part high end tattoo studio, as well as an exclusive jewellery store.”

Image: Black Line Studio

Nicolae came up with the idea for Black Line Studio upon noticing a lack of tattoo parlours catering to customers who were seeking a high-end experience.

“I realized that there was a niche in the market that was not filled,” he says, “which was for anyone who really wants to get a tattoo done, but they want to get it done in a very upscale, clean, open-space environment.”

After the King Street location opened, it quickly became a popular destination for tattoos – even attracting celebrity clients such as Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp and George Stroumboulopoulos.

Black Line Studio King Street (Image: Black Line Studio)

The company sets itself apart from the competition by providing a premiere customer service experience. For example, Black Line Studio provides clients with detailed information on how to properly care for their skin before and after getting a tattoo, and contacts clients in the days after they’ve had a procedure to see how they’re doing.

Black Line Studio’s average customer is between the ages of 25 and 40, however Nicolae says the boutiques also attract older clientele. Since the company provides a higher level of products and services compared to most other tattoo parlours, it charges higher rates, and therefore does not attract a lot of customers younger than 25.

“We’re definitely not the cheapest in town. Everything that we use, and the entire experience that we provide, it requires us to have a certain price point to deliver that,” Nicolae says. “Our target market is someone who appreciates everything that we offer.”

Image: Black Line Studio

Black Line Studio decided to open its second store at CF Shops at Don Mills since the high-end shopping centre appeals to its target audience. In addition, Nicolae says many customers visiting the King Street store were travelling from north of the city, and as a result, traffic and parking presented challenges. The new location presents a more accessible alternative.

“Don Mills is a good stopover for anyone coming from north of the city,” Nicolae says. “It’s an upscale mall, it has a very cool vibe.”

The new store is 1,800 square feet in size, and was designed with the help of designer Jane Son, principal at Toronto-based &SON Studio. The space was designed to be modern and open-concept, with jewellery presented in unique display cases.

“As we looked for the merchandise mix of the future shopping centre, we knew a new generation of health fitness beauty and services would have to be sourced and incubated. I worked with Ion and the Black Line Design team for almost a year to bring this concept to CF Shops at Don Mills,” said Nick Iozzo, Director of Leasing at Cadillac Fairview/CF Shops at Don Mills. 

Nicolae carefully selects the lines of jewellery that are carried in the store, with a focus on lines that are unique and not widely available at other retailers. The items available in the store are original and high quality.

Image: Black Line Studio

“You feel that you’re buying a piece of art,” Nicolae says.

One example includes Pyrrha – a jewellery line that is designed in Vancouver. It specializes in silver talismans featuring various different symbols, each with a different meaning. 

Other collections include Italian jewellery line Monserat De Lucca, and high-end body jewellery from New York-based designer Maria Tash.

The location also features artwork on display by local artist Joey Dammit, who specializes in mixed media pop art.

CF Shops at Don Mills’ owner, Cadillac Fairview, has expressed interest in opening Black Line Studio locations at its other properties, Nicolae says – depending on how well the new location is received.

Once the company has established a strong base in the Toronto region, Nicolae is also interested in eventually exploring the possibility of expanding to other cities, such as Montreal, New York and L.A.

“We want to make sure that Toronto has a good infrastructure, and once that has been proven, then we can look at other cities with the same sort of concept,” he says.

Megan Harman
Megan Harman
Megan Harman is a business reporter based in Toronto. She writes about topics including retail, financial services and technology. Megan covers Toronto’s retail industry through her blog Retail Realm (



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