Let me tell you a story about a young man and a dream. Greg has ALWAYS been into art, of all mediums, and although it created strife between his father and himself, he could never get too far away from it. His father just wanted the best for his son and didn’t think art could ever pay the bills. Shortly after Greg’s dad passed away in late 2000 he got a memorial tattoo and started talking to the artist about an apprenticeship. It was a much different world back then with handmade needles and stainless-steel tubes. The artist told him if he was really serious that Greg should buy an autoclave (sterilization equipment and very expensive) to show he was ready, then they could start his apprenticeship.
Greg and Dini discussed this in great length ensuring they were ready for this commitment. Greg even went as far as to ask is mother-in-law, Linda, how she would feel if her daughter was married to a tattoo artist. Although she is pretty conservative, she was very supportive and strongly encouraged him to proceed. It was not an easy task and after a lot of hard work scraping together the funds, he purchased an autoclave.
Fast forward to the recent history (2009) where Greg accepted a position with SIK tattoos in Maplewood. It was a new studio and was a full-time gig. Although it was over 30 miles one way to the studio it was a dream come true and Greg and Dini were so excited that his art was finally going to take them somewhere. He learned a lot at SIK and got an opportunity to work with some AMAZING artists. Greg was with TK from the beginning and became the senior artist in no time. Dini also worked at SIK helping with the front desk and anything that needed doing. What the duo learned at SIK from the owners and the artists was unparalleled and lifelong friendships were established. SIK was such a blessing and when it went out of business in the spring of 2011 it hit them hard, but TK sold them everything and although they were not ready to start a business yet, a fire was lit in their bellies!
Now an unemployed, licensed artist, Greg went back to the 9-5’s and was impossible to live with. He needed back into the tattoo industry before his lack of artistic outlet ended his 14+ year marriage. That summer (2011) Greg and Dini answered an ad for an artist to run a tattoo studio in Blaine. The studio owners (non-tattooing husband/wife duo) were excited about having a husband and wife team run their studio. They said they wanted to be “hands-off” owners who could just sit back and reap the rewards of a successful business. Greg and Dini thought their prayers had been answered. This was perfect. They could run a studio, like it was theirs without the responsibility of paying the bills. Sadly, this dream come to life became a nightmare. Working for these people was a living hell and after doing it for few short months they parted ways before they lost EVERYTHING to these CrAzY people. Even though this was a very difficult time, Greg and Dini learned a lot about running a business. Dini created documents and databases, learned the ins and outs of the licensing process and became an expert in the field of tattoo business in general. Greg learned what it was like to be the sole artist and the work it took to do the trade he loved so much. They also gained some very loyal clients, and if a fire was lit, to start a business after SIK, it was now a raging forest fire. Look out tattoo industry, the Sullivan’s are coming for you!
Greg and Dini talked a lot about what they wanted and didn’t want in their studio. What were they going to do and not do! How they were they going to reward loyalty and create a tattoo studio that felt like home. They wanted to be different than the rest of the industry and change the stigma of tattoos in the general populous. They would run create a business, then a studio, treating everyone like family, and giving people a place they would feel comfortable bringing grandma. A place where people could come in as a client, feel like they found a home, and leave as family. They also needed to find staff with like mindedness and a loyalty to them and their brand. They needed people who wanted to change the world, one tattoo at a time. There was so much fire and so many hopes and dreams, but at times it felt as though it would never happen. Even through their rough personal times, Greg and Dini refuse to quit and continued to dream, save, sacrifice and fight with everything they had, to make this dream come true.
In January 2012, Linda and Ralph invested in their son-in-law and daughter by making a small financial investment, as owners, and providing a HUGE amount emotional support. Greg and Dini started looking right away for a place to make their “studio home”. They found a great couple, in New Brighton, looking to rent out a portion of their building and within two weeks of signing the lease they opened the doors and The Ink Shrinks Tattoo Studio dream became a reality. Although they started the studio with humble beginnings (folding chairs and blank walls) it’s blossomed into a beautifully decorated and furnished place for all walks of life. Greg and Dini both worked 9-5’s in the beginning, pulling 10-15-hour days, 6 days a week for the first couple years, but it finally paid off and Greg was able to do his dream job without any outside compensation. Dini has continued to work odd jobs here and there to help out financially, but even that is dwindling as they find they are much better as a team than individuals.
This has not been an easy road for the Sullivan’s and they would be the first to tell you that running a small business is not for the faint of heart. They work 24/7, miss a lot of personal events, fight with everything they have to just make ends meet each month, but doing what you love is worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. Although it has not always been easy and there were times they thought they would have to give it all up, they feel so blessed to have their past experiences to call on and their collection of loyal clients, now family, they found along the way. This dream that started so many years ago is finally growing into a viable business and they thank each and everyone one of those who will, have, and continue to support them.
Message from the owner, Linda:
My husband and I have owned many small businesses in our lives, but other than my Daycare, none we tried to do together were very successful. However, I could see the drive in my son-in-law and daughter, not to mention the talent Greg has, and I thought, “Hey they could make this work”. They had what Ralph and I lacked, and “doggone it!” they could REALLY be successful in this industry!
For years Greg worked on his art and each year his tattoos grew more and more in complexity and he started to develop his own style. Then a couple years ago, Greg started pursuing his Fine Arts degree and his passion of art in other mediums began to transfer to his tattooing. His art has always been good, but now I see his work and my breath is taken away. This man has fought so hard for his dream and to be the best he can be, in such a diverse environment. He can do beautiful cutesy pieces that can have bold or soft color and they make me gasp at their beauty. He also does dark and creepy, so not my style, but I can see the beauty (or maybe horror!?) in that too. It also elicit a gasp, but usually for different reason. YIKES! However, no matter what Greg does, it is full of emotions and feelings. BEAUTIFUL!
I also want to say how proud I am of this young man, that came into our lives so many years ago (25+ years). The love Greg and Dini have developed, who they are as parents, and what they can accomplish together has been truly remarkable to watch. They have surrounded themselves with great people who have not only worked for them or been clients they are now lifelong friends. Their love knows no bounds and their energy and integrity draw people in and once you’re in you are there to stay. This whole process has been such a huge blessing to all of us and although it is not an industry I had EVER considered and it has NOT BEEN EASY, I LOVE this art medium, and I am SO proud to be a part of this AMAZING studio.
THANK YOU TO ALL THE CURRENT, PAST, AND FUTURE STAFF AND CLIENTS FOR ALL YOU DO!!!