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Midvale Journal

Tattoo artists are drawn to Midvale Main Street

Mar 08, 2021 02:48PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Dark Arts on Midvale’s Main Street specializes in intricate black work tattoos. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

Midvale could be developing its own tattoo district. Within two years, Echelon, Dark Arts and Black Rabbit all moved in to one side of the 7600 block of Main Street. 

Ashley Thomas had been tattooing for over a decade before she moved to Utah and opened Echelon Tattoo at 7648 S. Main St. in 2018.

“When I was looking for a shop I knew I didn’t want it to be in a strip mall,” Thomas said. “Nothing was catching my eye, but by happenstance I drove down this street with my husband. It was like going back in time. It really appealed to me, especially this building.” 

That building was 7648 S. Main St., a charming structure with green wooden siding and a white balcony. Thomas, who also lives in Midvale, was curious enough about the building’s history to enquire at the history museum down the street, but wasn’t able to learn more.

“I imagine it was someone’s home,” Thomas said. “It feels so homey to me.”

In 2019, Dark Arts Tattoo moved in to a more industrial building at 7632 S. Main St. The space has high ceilings and exposed brick with distressed wood accents. Dark Arts is a collective of eight artists who specialize in intricate black work, which uses mainly black ink and uses bold lines and designs.

Soon before moving into the space, Dark Arts co-owner Mitch Anderson took second place in the “Overall Large-scale Tattoo” at the Salt Lake Tattoo Convention. Anderson shared the honor with Buck Harvey, who owns Black Rabbit Tattoo.

Harvey gutted the small brick building at 7610 S. Main St. in July 2020. He and his team painted over old plaster columns, giving them a distressed brick finish while elegant chandeliers accent the high ceilings.

Harvey specializes in elaborate, colorful fantasy pieces. His portfolio includes examples of “cover-up tattoos,” where a new tattoo is drawn over an old one. The four other artists at Black Rabbit all have unique styles, but bright colors, animals and portraits are a common theme.

While primarily a place to get tattooed, Black Rabbit also offers T-shirts and original art prints for sale.  

Echelon also offers more than tattoos. Thomas is vegan and ensures that she and her three fellow artists use a 100% vegan tattoo process. A year after opening her shop, she added a vegan boutique. The items for sale range from purses that contain no animal products to bath bombs that are not tested on animals.

“It’s nice to feature local makers,” Thomas said. “I get as much stuff from local people as possible. The makers don’t have to be vegan, but the products do.”

Between the boutique and the bright, cozy interior, a visitor might forget they’re in a tattoo shop, but that’s still the focus for Echelon.

Tattoos that Thomas enjoys doing the most are traditional, which have bold colors and iconic designs and neo traditional, which has similar subject matter but with a wider color palette and more sophisticated shading. 

Currently, all three shops are open by appointment only, and all are taking extra precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“We already wear PPE (personal protective equipment) every day, and already have training to keep everything sanitary, so it’s not too huge of a change for us in terms of logistics,” Thomas said. “But it’s definitely impacted our business. Hopefully, this is the worst of it. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to open safely.”

So much is on pause while COVID-19 drags on, but Thomas looks forward to the future on Main Street. 

“Ideally, it would just be cool to see the buildings restored to preserve the historic character. I’d like to see a diverse mix of new businesses and see existing businesses thrive as well. Everyone prospers when you support your local economy,” she said. 

As for the two other tattoo shops down the street?

“Nowadays so many people get tattooed that we can all sustain ourselves as businesses on the same block,” Thomas said. “We all have our own unique style.”