During a recent trip to visit some friends on Fourth of July weekend in Maryland, my wife and I decided to visit the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore for some crab cakes before we headed back to Jersey. On our way, we passed a tattoo shop on Park Avenue, of all places, called Read Street Tattoo Parlour. And as if you didn’t notice a trend in this column, yes, I pulled the car over and we stopped in to check this shop out and their artwork.
We walked up a flight of stairs into an open space, painted olive green and adorned with flash-art work in frames. The shop was sectioned off into private rooms where the tattooing is done. We were greeted by a guy named Charlie, who I later found out was owner Charlie Foos. The shop has become a longtime favorite for tattoo aficionados in the Baltimore area, housed in a historic building in the center of Mount Vernon, contributing to Baltimore’s cultural atmosphere.
Read Street Tattoo Parlour was originally opened back in 1999 by renowned tattoo artist Seth Ciferri, but has changed ownership a few times before Foos took over in 2008. Once the keys were in his hands, Foos did some hiring, some firing and some remodeling to update the look and feel of the shop, giving it a more upscale appearance without compromising the old-fashioned tattoo parlor feel.
Charlie Foos did his apprenticeship in Brooklyn, NY under Elio Espana at Flyrite Studio, which explained why it was so easy to talk to him—he was a fellow New Yorker. After he left New York, Foos returned to his roots in Baltimore, landing him here at Read Street Tattoo Parlour. I asked him why would a prospective customer like myself come to Read Street for my next tattoo? He told us that the philosophy of the shop is to “deliver exceptional work in a non-dramatic and stress-free environment, without the rock star attitude.” He went on to say, “Getting tattooed is a traumatic enough experience. I don’t want to have a shop where people feel intimidated.” Foos continued that potential clients can also anticipate working with artists who are unwilling to settle for second best.
Read Street Tattoo Parlour houses five artists, including Foos. Rounding out the rest of the staff are Dana Helmuth, Joe Kundrat, Violet Fivel, and Hunter R. Spanks, all of whom are amazing artists based on their portfolios. Their line work and colors can easily be matched up with some of the best I’ve seen. When it comes to consultations, it’s free to talk to one of the artists at Read Street Tattoo Parlour before setting up an appointment with one of the artists. Yes, appointments are needed and are to be made in person with a cash deposit that will be subtracted from the final total once the tattoo is completed. Walk-ins, however, are also welcome when there is availability.
How clean is Read Street Tattoo Parlour? According to Foos, all of the needles the shop uses are single-use and come in individually wrapped and sterilized packages. The machines get sterilized in an autoclave or cleaned with a medical grade disinfectant after each use. That’s pretty clean!
When I asked about pricing, I was told that the cost of any tattoo will be set only once the tattoo has been drawn out and will depend on the size of the tattoo, the location on the client’s body, and the amount of detail. If a client is trying to stick to a budget, Foos said they will gladly try to work within that budget. If the client is getting a larger piece or needs multiple sessions for their tattoo, they will be charged an hourly rate of $150. There is a $60 minimum on all tattoos except ones done on hands, faces, feet or necks, in which case there’s a $100 minimum. They will not price anything over the phone or internet, so they urge clients to come in for a free consultation.
And finally, I had to ask about the age limit at Read Street Tattoo Parlour. Foos told me that clientele must be 18 years old with a government issued ID like a driver’s license, a state issued photo ID or a passport. He stressed, “No exceptions!”
I have to admit that our visit to the Read Street Tattoo Parlour was a short one, but a really pleasant one. After looking through some of the portfolios, this would be my “go-to” shop if I was to get some work done down by the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. So, if you’re in the area and you love tattoos, Charlie Foos’ shop is the place to visit. Read Street Tattoo Parlour is located at 882 Park Avenue in Baltimore. For more info on the shop, you can call (410) 523-4657, visit them online at ReadStreetTattoo.net or check them out on Facebook at Facebook.com/ReadStreetTattoo.
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo spot! Who knows what state it will be in! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest, please e-mail me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at firstname.lastname@example.org.