A Permanent Vice

Vice, a new coffee shop and tattoo parlor, opened on Feb. 2.

Meaghan Pogue TTN
Meaghan Pogue TTN

It’s not just about the espresso and free Wi-Fi.

Vice Coffee, Spring Garden Street’s latest spot for a caffeine fix opened its doors to the public on Feb. 2. While visitors have been stopping by for typical coffee shop items like a latte or a breakfast sandwich, starting in March those same customers can come in for something else – some permanent ink.

“It’s a play on the vices: coffee, tattooing… everybody’s got a vice,” said Nan McNinney, Vice Coffee’s general manager.

Owner Charlie Collazo, general board member of the West Poplar CDC neighborhood association, thought of buying the space, which was previously a nail salon before its vacancy, after becoming convinced that the Spring Garden area was lacking a spot for a decent cup of coffee.

Although Collazo himself doesn’t have any tattoos, Vice Coffee is in preparation toward staffing three tattoo artists, for walk-in as well as appointment based tattooing.

“It’s kind of funny, [Collazo’s] not a tattoo-person by any stretch of the imagination. I have tattoos, but he doesn’t,” said Collazo’s wife and Vice Coffee’s co-owner Heather DeRussy-Collazo. “I think it was just in taking a look at development of neighborhoods across the city and what drives that development.”

The husband and wife team also own The Institute bar, a stone’s throw away from its latest endeavor. Vice Coffee will sell food products made at The Institute, as well as Philadelphia’s Le Bus Bakery. One Village, based in Souderton, Pa., will supply the coffee.

In addition to the coffee and tattoo hybrid, Vice Coffee houses a new and used book collection. Several books about tattoos line the wall’s numerous shelves, but the collection of various genres has a little more than 200 books so far, curated by McNinney’s partner, a librarian.

Customers will be able to borrow the books for use outside of the coffee shop, but unlike the local library, pocket-change fines aren’t the biggest threat if books aren’t kept in good condition.

“If not, we’ll tattoo a Smurf on your butt or something,” McNinney joked.

On Feb. 14, a few weeks before Vice Coffee’s official launch date of March 7, several hand drills sat on the counter and the space smelled of fresh paint while a few of customers sat using their laptops despite the fact that Vice was missing its finishing touches.

McNinney said the staff is still working out the kinks, but the establishment is coming along.

“I used to live right up the street. I swung by because it sounds a little eccentric,” said Jeff Eshleman, a customer.

Eshleman said he doesn’t have any tattoos, but would consider stopping by Vice if he were interested in getting one.

Jerome Gunn and Mark Petrunak will be Vice Coffee’s tattoo artists, while a third has not officially been named.

Petrunak has worked at a couple of different tattoo shops in South Jersey, but is eager to start in Philadelphia, an area that Petrunak believes widely accepts tattoos.

“I think that it’s beloved here,” Petrunak said of the tattoo industry. “I think [Philadelphia]’s one of the cities that actually truly embraces tattooed people.”

Vice will stay open until 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, in hopes that night owls, like those stopping by shows at Union Transfer right across the street, will swing by and make the space more than just a daytime hangout.

“It’s a really unique concept,” McNinney said. “If anything, it’s going to make tattooing more accessible to people who might otherwise be afraid to walk into a tattoo shop, because tattoo shops can be very intimidating, and yet, this is a coffee shop. We’re trying to class up the tattoo industry a little bit by making it more accessible.”

Kerri Ann Raimo can be reached at kerriann.raimo@temple.edu.

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