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Photo by Drew Mader
Alton Tattoo Company opened in February at 2514 College Ave. in Alton. (From left) Alton Tattoo Company owner and tattoo artist Kyle Hulker, artist Meg Indelicato and artist Patrick Day.
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ALTON — Tattooing has been a hot topic in the Riverbend recently.
While one shop owner spent the better part of 2015 battling the Alton Plan Commission over his request for a zoning amendment to relocate downtown to the corner of Broadway and Henry, another team of well-known, St. Louis-based tattooers quietly moved in and opened up shop without incident in Upper Alton in February of this year.
Alton Tattoo Company, 2514 College Ave., is the latest endeavor from Sean Baltzell (Tower Classic Tattooing, All City Tattoo, Knife & Flag, Union Barber Shop) and Kyle Hulker, who apprenticed under Baltzell years ago and also is a partner at All City Tattoo in St. Louis.
So, why Alton, after seeing such success in the big city? Part of that answer lies with Hulker, an Alton native. He grew up on Fernwood Avenue until moving away with his family at a young age, only to return to the Milton area at 17. These business-savvy gentlemen also have identified Alton as a place with a market for high-quality tattoos and felt they could grab a piece of that pie.
Walking into the shop, there is a fun and relaxed atmosphere, with welcoming faces eager to make your tattoo dreams come true.
“We don’t want people to feel intimidated if they aren’t covered in tattoos like most of us,” Hulker says.
Treating clients with dignity and respect is important; his primary concern is that customers walk away completely satisfied with their experience and the artwork they have chosen to permanently add to their bodies. As a shop owner, Hulker said he strives to embody a leadership role. For him, he said that means he is tattooing as much or more than any of the other artists in the shop, and there’s a friendly competition among his team of artists. This contributes to their collective creative growth and pushes each of them to constantly improve and learn new tricks of the trade from one another.
Upon darkening the door at the tattoo shop, “Watch Your Step” and “Don’t Be Trippin’” are skillfully painted in bright colors on the black and white checkerboard floor, which adds to the old-school classic vibe of the shop. Heed this sage advice and take the two very well-marked steps up before finding yourself overcome by hundreds of flash sheets adorning the exposed brick walls.
A flash sheet is a piece of art, usually ink and watercolor, that has been created with one or several designs on it and distributed as its creator sees fit — many tattoo artists will trade or sell their flash sheets, allowing their work to be viewed and tattooed in shops all over the world. Flash designs, unlike custom designs created specifically for one client, are meant to be tattooed on as many customers as may be interested in them. Flash is a hallmark of American Traditional tattoo culture, and is a common vehicle by which many artists are apprenticed into the trade.
While stylistically, the emphasis at Alton Tattoo Company is American Traditional, Japanese Traditional, and Black and Grey, the shop features a diverse roster of 8 to 10 artists who rotate shifts between ATC and sister-shop All City Tattoo in North St. Louis.