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Saving Grey Harbour

After a fire demolished the Hamilton tattoo parlour, the arts community is coming together to rebuild the James Street shop.

Photo credits: Tom Penny

Grey Harbour, located on 161 James St. North, has been open since April of 2015. The nautical-themed tattoo shop is home to artists Tom Penny, Rob Vino, Steven James, and Tyler Mansey.

On April 21st 2020, three businesses on James St. were the victims of arson. Born & Raised restaurant, La Bichette boutique, and the shop above- Grey Harbour.

Photo credits: Tom Penny

Grey Harbour was created by three artists when they decided they wanted a shop of their own.

"Thomas Penny, Sherlane White and I decided after working for four years together at another shop, we wanted to open the doors on a new chapter," said Vino. "After further conversations and the closing from our former shop, we agreed to partner up and make it a reality."

"Grey Harbour came about after I was let go from an existing shop in Hamilton," said Penny.

"I came to Rob with the concept of owning a place together, sharing a space where we could work together to give our clients the best experience possible."

The artists at Grey Harbour created a space for their clientele to feel at home.

"To me, tattooing is an event," said James. "I enjoy people coming in, preparing to spend the day with us- laughing, talking about anything and everything and making sure the client knows that they are being focused on. We try to set up a space that is safe, comfortable and contributes to the overall experience because when the client looks at their tattoo, they will always remember the time they had."

"Grey Harbour is a space where we respect each other as artists, and coworkers," said Penny. "We share the responsibilities of running the space together. It's taken a lot of changes and open minds to get to this point, but we like to think that we can offer the most relaxed and positive atmosphere for our clients. We all share a common goal, which is to provide the best experiences and tattoos for our clients."

Gutted by the fire, the parlour was deemed unsalvageable.

"The fire was started by a serial arsonist," said Penny. "He set the front door on fire by shoving some material under the door and igniting it. Rob received a call from the buildings owner, and called me. I live the closest and by the time I arrived it was already too late. The next day the fire marshal cleared the scene and I had a chance to assess the damage. We had our adjuster in the next day which they deemed the shop a total loss."

Since the fire, the artists have received an outpouring of sympathy and love from the arts community.

"The community support has been extremely supportive, it’s been a driving force of our positive outlook on this whole situation," said Vino. "I think I was on my phone for two days straight after it all happened, with all the outreach and kind words from friends, family, and followers. Most of the reactions were just the same as ours- shocking and devasted."

"The reactions have been the most overwhelming to me," Penny. "It’s hard to grasp the full extent of the flow of support one has until they are pushed to the experience. I am thankful and humbled by the overwhelming positive and caring responses everybody has sent us. It will always show to me that there is more good in this world than bad, one negative act has been outweighed by the hundreds of positive."

If you'd like to donate, there are several ways you can help.

"We currently have a GoFundMe set up, and will soon be releasing limited run copper plate etch prints in collaboration with Smoke Stack Studios here in Hamilton," (now released) said Penny. "Other ways to help support is just spreading the word, sharing our page, and supporting your local artists. Each of us have been busy selling prints, and merchandise to raise funds for the shops rebuild."

On Saturday, May 23rd 2020, the Grey Harbour GoFundMe reached it's goal of $25 thousand. You can still check out the copper plate etch prints with Smoke Stack Studios, and there are prints, custom drawings, and gift cards available from each artist.

Copper Plate Etch Print link:

Individual artists:

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