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Tattoo shop draws body art aficionados downtown

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Long time Gresham resident believes in city's growing cultural vibrancy.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Tom McGloughlan gets comfortable as tattoo artist Bill Jersey gets to work at Equinox.Those whose impressions of a tattoo parlor lean old-school, as in a cramped, cluttered, dimly lit den occupied by burly bikers and other intimidating clientele, will find Equinox Tattoo Collective a revelation.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gresham native Shelly DeAngio recently opened the Equinox Tattoo Collective in downtown Gresham in the belief that it will be as popular a location as anywhere in the Portland area going forward. Bathed in ample natural light, Equinox's expansive, high-ceilinged space on the first floor of The Barenger building on Northeast Third Street — like its mostly 30-something staff — is stylish and warmly inviting. Iconoclasts and off-the-wall characters are welcome, of course, but on a recent Friday afternoon, those reclined to get their tattoos appeared about as countercultural as shoppers in an Old Navy commercial.

Equinox owner Shelly DeAngio, 33, concedes that body art, like so many lifestyle affectations once associated with rebellion and edginess has — to a large degree — been absorbed into mainstream American culture.

"I would say it's mainstream, and still growing," she said. "I don't know what kids are gonna do to shock their parents five years from now. Most parents are OK with tattoos these days."

DeAngio, who has lived in Gresham since she was an infant, opened Equinox in September 2015 in a former yoga studio.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Tattoo artist Hunmin Ji works on client Chris Kean, a visitor from California, during a recent visit to Equinox Tattoo Collective in downtown Gresham.

The idea was to collaborate with a handful of other friends and body artists to bring creative tattooing closer to East Multnomah County residents.

"We saw the need for this type of business," said DeAngio, who worked at Forbidden Body Art in Southeast Portland before becoming an independent artist. "A lot of people were going out to 85th and Stark and bypassing Gresham. My business was growing really well through Instagram and social media, so it was the right time for me to expand."

In addition to DeAngio, Equinox's artistic lineup includes Hunmin Ji, Bill Jersey, Austin Tatious and Lindsey Strong. DeAngio likes the idea of an artistic collective, both in the collaborative aspect as well as in providing customers a range of creative styles from which to choose.

"It's a real artists' collective. We figure out what everything is costing and share it. I'm not making a lot of money off of artists working here, but we all stay together and grow together. That's really the point, to build a strong group of artists."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Equinox body artists Austin Tatious and Hunmin Ji work on clients Friday during a visit to the shop. Tattoo prices vary with individual artists, but are generally based on a $100 per hour rate.

Strong, who moved to the Portland area from the likewise culturally vibrant Asheville, N.C., enjoys the interaction and creative synergy between body artist and client.

"People have ideas that they don't know how to make visual. That's what I like about it," she said. "Their ideas are more creative than they realize … We work on them to flesh out an actual image."

Strong finds the accessibility of Equinox sets it apart.

"I feel like the shop is the perfect welcome into the tattoo world without making people feel intimidated," she said.

If the vibe of Equinox seems more cutting edge than the average Gresham-based business, then DeAngio is on the right track.

"When I chose this space, I got a lot of flack about opening in Gresham instead of Portland," she said. "'Why be out of the hub of things where things are busy?' I grew up here. I see downtown as a great location with good transportation and things going on and things to do.

"I think Gresham will be just as cool and up and coming a neighborhood as anywhere in Portland," she added. "I believe that."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Equinox Tattoo Collective is located on Northeast Third Street in downtown Gresham.