Aeriel Brown (photo editor),
Paul Elledge (photographer)
The Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company Inc
1017 W BELMONT AVE
CHICAGO, IL 60657-3302
Artists: Dale Grande, Nick Colella, Mike Dalton, Mario Desa, Matt Ziolko, and Josh Howard
“I would rather be here, than anywhere else,” says Chicago Tattoo Company’s shop manager and artist Nick Colella. “I don’t care what kind of shit goes down, as long as I am in a tattoo shop.” He adds, with a chuckle, “I’m lucky that I have a wife that understands that.” Originally opened in the ’60s by tattoo veteran Cliff Raven, Chicago Tattoo Company is not only the city’s oldest shop, but in fact, once was its only shop. In the ’70s, when officials upped the age limit for receiving a tattoo to 21 (it’s only recently returned to 18), most of the shops in the city went under. But this place managed to keep its doors open. As a result, boasts Colella, “Every other shop in the city has some sort of affiliation with Chicago Tattoo.” That feeling of tradition carries weight with the artists who work here. “We’ll do whatever walks in the door,” Colella explains. Why? “Because that’s what a tattoo shop has always been.” With no private rooms and consciously eschewing the appointment-only trend—“I’m not going to sit and pull out your dreams and put them on your arm,” Colella says a little derisively—this establishment emphasizes egalitarianism and camaraderie. According to Colella, “We think everyone should be coming and hanging out here.”
EAT: Cozy Noodle and Rice, 3456 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-327-0100. Decorated with toys and other whimsical items, this cheap and tasty Thai restaurant will not disappoint.
DRINK: Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., 773-935-2118. Grab your cash and head to this funky neighborhood watering hole that’s housed in an old improv theater. Expect to see a motley crew of artists, musicians, and comics.
SPEND: Strange Cargo, 3448 N. Clark St., 773-327-8090. Wigs, shoes, stick-on moustaches, odd gifts, and vintage clothes all pack this tiny, eclectic boutique. Shop on a “Live Art” night (past acts have included belly dancers) or design your own custom T-shirt (made in house) for added fun.