When Cole Seigel had a chance to save the beleaguered Crimson Unicorn Tattoo Parlor on 5th Street in the Historic Core, he saw an opportunity to transform the shop into something more vital than what’s seen on the surface. Neighboring businesses helped with its resurrection, now renamed The Order. They too saw the promise and possibility on this precarious block, just a stone’s throw from Skid Row, and got behind Cole to create something remarkable. Cole makes it clear, “I believe in Downtown. Downtown was welcoming to me. I have never been in place where people were more supportive of one another…we had local businesses coming to donate, help us raise money to buy new chairs. It was a huge deal to me.”
More than just a new name and fresh coat of paint, Cole set out to do something very different, “I never wanted a tattoo shop that was like other tattoo shops — snobbish, or where people felt intimidated. Whether you have no tattoos or are covered, people here are treated the same way.” He put together an incredibly talented team of artists that range in more ways than illustrative style, “My shop is all about equality, we have a super diverse crew in here”. You can expect a spectrum of expertise on hand, and Cole plays the matchmaker based on what his client’s needs are, “We love traditional Americana work here, but I wanted a team that could specifically cater to each person’s style. I pair the person coming in with the artist that best suits what they’re looking for.”
With the love and support from local business community backing him, The Order does their part to shape the Core’s growth and community. Similar to businesses like The Pie Hole, The Order sees their role as part of a greater whole. They’ve partnered with Skid Row Housing Trust, offering free tattoo cover-ups for those on the Row who carry the marks of prison life. Finding a new start, job, or societal acceptance isn’t easy when you bear the tribal marks of the pen. Life inside comes with extreme, systematic, racial segregation, most often used as a means of survival, rather than true racism. “A lot of people get out and maintain a prison mentality, or an institutionalized type of thinking…this (cover-up art) changes perspective, and is something they wear with pride.” As opposed to tattoo removal, which is expensive and often ends with disappointing results, tattoo cover-up artwork can both beautiful and transformative. “Why not turn it into a cool piece of artwork you can be proud of?” suggests Cole. “It’s not about forgetting the past, that’s what makes us who we are.”
The cover-up artwork that Cole and his team do is a true service for those trying to rebuild their lives, moving beyond a darker and likely violent past, not too unlike The Order itself. When new businesses moving into any part of Downtown, how they approach homelessness is vital to the neighborhood’s long term success. Like the artwork they create, The Order’s partnership with Skid Row Housing Trust reflects a growing attitude amongst businesses that homelessness is a human issue to solved with creative and caring ideas, not just removed.
Written by Scott Meisse
Photographed by Janica de Guzman & Mike Payne