A Successful Day at Pittsburgh Tattoo Company’s First Flash Event Since Before Pandemic

Downtown business owners, workers and visitors hope for a bit of normalcy as the coronavirus approaches its second year.
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Even as the rain picked up, the line grew longer outside of Pittsburgh Tattoo Company

On Friday, the Downtown tattoo and piercing shop on Smithfield Street held its first tattoo flash event since before the pandemic, marking what many hope to be an era of return to the Downtown business district devastated by COVID-19.

At a flash event, visitors can pick a design from a sheet of tattoos drawn by the shop’s artists, often sold at a discounted rate. The popularity of these events has ballooned in recent years, following the growth of the tattoo industry nationwide and the increasing acceptance of ink in the mainstream.

The flash event featured a variety of spooky, Halloween-themed designs like witches hats, vampire fangs, coffins and bats ranging in price from $80 to $100, with shading or color available for an additional fee. There was also a flash sheet of designs by the shop’s apprentice artist, which cost $30 for the outline and $50 with shading. 

Masks were required for the unvaccinated.

Pittsburgh Tattoo Company is well known for its “Friday the 13th” flash events, which shop owner Diane McQuade says have drawn sizable crowds in years past.

“When we first opened in 2014, I thought that Friday the 13th tattoo events would be a great way to get exposure to a new client base. Our first event we did maybe 100 tattoos and were super excited. The next one we did 200 tattoos. It just kept growing and getting better,” she says. 

For the last event in 2019, McQuade says they got their intake system down to a science and were able to do more than 400 tattoos and 100 piercings.

“It’s an amazing feeling to have that many people walk through the doors of your business and have a great experience,” she adds.

McQuade estimates that they did between 75 and 80 designs on Friday, and artists were there until around 10 p.m. to fit everyone in.

Tattoos were larger than they were at past flash specials, and shading and color add-ons were available for the first time, too, which meant the tattoos generally took much longer than they have at previous events. While the figure may seem lower than in past years, McQuade still called it “amazing.” 

The event came just as the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership began marketing a new initiative aimed at drawing returning workers and visitors to local businesses. As the coronavirus pandemic approaches the end of its second year, Downtown businesses continue to struggle to reach their pre-COVID figures. 

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership recently released its latest Pittsburgh Reactivation Report, which tracks Downtown activity through Oct. 14, 2021. Overall Downtown activity — including residents, employees and visitors — is still down 45% from 2019 levels. 

For small business owners like McQuade, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

“This first post-pandemic event feels fantastic,” she says. “2020 was a scary year for small businesses. We didn’t know if we were going to come out on the other side. To be here, open, welcoming in clients for a celebration event is a wonderful feeling.”

Categories: The 412