Steel N Ink Expanding Presence with 3 New Locations Set to Open in Canada by Year’s End [Interview]


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The unique Steel N Ink, upscale tattoo and body piercing studio with body art and body jewelry, is opening three more new locations before the end of this year.

Jamie Randolph, President of the company, said the locations include CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa; The Well in downtown Toronto; and Winnipeg at Kildonan Place.

The company currently has 12 locations open with the most recent one opening in Midtown Toronto on Eglinton West at the end of April.

Steel N Ink at The Well (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The Ottawa location should be open in the first week of August with The Well anticipated to open in September and the company’s second Winnipeg location to open in late September or early October.

“We have a new concept of our studio that we’re doing at The Well. It’s just a little bit more lounge style. It’s also a downtown neighbourhood and we wanted to give it a better feel for clients to be more comfortable through the whole process – a place where they can come and hang out, ask questions, speak with the artists. There’s a big couch in the entry way. Just more of a place you can hang out and kind of discuss ideas with the artists,” he said.

The average store is about 1,200 square feet.

“We’re looking for high traffic locations. We’ve done well in enclosed shopping centres recently. With Midtown we went away from that. We went to a street style location but it’s also footfall for us. We just need high traffic locations,” said Randolph.

“We’re already the leader in our field as far as our industry goes. So we’re going to take it as far as we can. Right now we’re exploring opportunities in the western provinces as well as the Maritimes. And there’s nothing like us even in the States so I think we’re going to start looking to the U.S. in 2025 and beyond.”

Steel N Ink at The Well (Rendering: Optima design)
Steel N Ink at The Well (Rendering: Optima design)

Randolph said the brand resonates with consumers because it brings an upscale studio to these high profile locations that wouldn’t normally be exposed to the tattoo and piercing industry. 

“And we’re professional operators. We have the clients in mind whenever we open stores. We want to give them the best experience possible. And we want them to be comfortable. We want them to walk into our stores with a very inviting environment, open to everyone. We want anyone to come in and ask any question that’s on their minds. There’s no judgment in our studios,” he said.

The success of the brand today is beyond Randolph’s expectations.

“We had to fight tooth and nail to get into our first mall. We were told no about a dozen times. I was persistent. We just kept trying. A lot of locations that never would have looked at us that I had asked prior and that we were refused are calling us now,” he said.

Randolph said the industry used to be low brow but now it’s just an extension of the beauty industry. 

Steel N Ink at The Well (Rendering: Optima design)

Steel N Ink business began years ago when he took a summer job with a family friend in Sauble Beach, near Owen Sound, Ontario.

“When I was 17 years old I went to Sauble Beach to work as a summer job. It’s a seasonal beach town. I went to work for a family friend. He owned a body piercing and T-shirt store and I worked there and then I bought it in 2005 and made it a tattoo studio as well,” said Randolph in a previous Retail Insider story.

The first location opened in Sauble Beach in 2005. 

“I started in Sauble Beach and everyone always said to me who would get a tattoo on vacation. You know it’s just people. When you have a large crowd of people you have traffic. It’s very inviting. People come in and everyone’s thinking of doing a tattoo but a lot of people don’t go out of their way to get it done and other studios kind of make it hard to book in and they’re in certain parts of towns,” he said.

“We are to the masses. We’re in a great spot in Sauble Beach. Now people who wouldn’t typically walk into a tattoo shop come see us. Seeing that, we went to Collingwood which is also a tourist place and then at Barrie across the street from the mall because they wouldn’t allow me in the mall at the time. Then we went to the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls and that was tremendous for us.

“Then I said we’ve got to go into malls and everything got started from there.”

Renderings courtesy of Optima Design.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


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