Uptown in the News
December 14, 2005
When the Red Line L car breaks into a crawl just south of the Wilson stop, the Tattoo Factory sign painted on a brick wall has long been a landmark that you’ve made it to – or are on your way out of Uptown.
In a sign of neighborhood progress though, owner Paul Collurafici opened a new shop just across the street last week becoming the final tenant in the ornate terra cotta building at the corner of Montrose and Broadway to pack up and leave, just a week before the first leg of construction on the Wilson Yard project is finally set to begin.
Housing and new retail will eventually replace the taqueria, grocer and other small shops that once filled the historic building. But construction on that leg of the project won’t begin until the first project phase, building a new Aldi grocery store, is completed next year.
The plasma screen televisions that hang from the walls of the new Tattoo Factory, 4441 N. Broadway Ave., and computer monitors propped up on granite countertops streaming real-time images from throughout the studio defy the old image of a hangout filled with punks and bikers.
With upscale businesses like Starbucks and Borders open around the corner, Collurafici, who is the president of the Uptown Chamber of Commerce, said he saw the move as an opportunity to bring his shop in line with an ever-changing neighborhood, and clientele.
Knowing that the Wilson Yard project was coming closer to fruition, Collurafici bought the building for a new shop last winter. After a six-month, $350,000 gut rehab, the doors opened this week to "a tattoo studio like no other", he said.
For decades it seemed as if the shop had tattooed all of Uptown, employees used to joke. A sign even hung in the window that said "We tattooed your father here."
Now the factory has become more of a destination spot for middle-aged women trekking in from the suburbs and professional athletes pulling up in sleek cars. Even a state representative was recently inked at the shop.
Aside from the reputable artists, Collurafici said, in an unregulated industry, customers are drawn by a reputation of safety and cleanliness. The new studio can now boast more of those features than ever before.
All of the lights and water fixtures are triggered by motion sensors creating an environment likened to touchless tattooing. Much of the inking equipment is also disposable so, "the less our customers (and artists) touch, the less diseases spread," Collurafici said.
What would his brother Pete the shop’s founder who died in a motorcycle wreck before Collurafici took the reins, think about what he’s done with the place?
"I don’t know what he’d think," he said. "I imagine he’d be proud. But he was a biker. The kind of guy who parked the bikes inside."
Times have changed in the once gritty neighborhood though. "Uptown is getting nicer and nicer," he said. And through the new shop he’s trying to keep that momentum going." We care. And we’ll do anything to make sure that Uptown keeps getting better and better.
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