Putting new meaning to the phrase '2-in-1'
Oak and Iron, Buffalo’s first combination salon and tattoo shop, offers ‘safe space’ downtown
Oak and Iron is breaking boundaries in Buffalo’s tattoo community as the first tattoo shop with a full-service salon, priding itself on being one of the most inclusive studios in the area.
The shop’s slogan is “keep Buffalo beautiful,” and the owners do just that. Married owners Ashley and Jessica Fox created the shop in response to the “male-dominated” tattoo community, hoping to create a safe space for patrons and employees. They prioritize hiring artists and estheticians from marginalized communities and support the community through charity efforts.
The shop is split in half, offering tattoo services in the front and salon services in the back. Staff specialize in multiple tattoo styles, haircuts and color, nail care, waxing, eyelash extensions and makeup. The location encourages patrons to book appointments in multiple areas to get the most out of the “one-stop shop.”
Patrons are welcomed in the shop by a sign stating, “We welcome all religions, all races, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations, all genders. We stand with you. You are safe here!”
The Foxes hope this highlights their passion for uplifting Buffalo’s women and the LGBTQ+ community. They teamed up with Period the Menstrual Movement’s Buffalo chapter to provide Aunt Flow menstrual products in Oak and Iron.
“Although [Buffalo] is kind of behind nearby cities like Toronto or New York City, I think we have the potential to grow and educate the community,” Jessica Fox, also Oak and Iron’s head tattoo artist, said. “The tattoo community is tough. It’s always been male-dominated. We wanted to create a space that was non-intimidating and comfortable.”
The owners are “hyper-aware” when choosing their staff to stay true to their inclusive goals. They even hired employees who are “less experienced” but share the shop’s values.
“When we were searching for staff, we looked for people that were skilled but also had a social awareness,” Jessica Fox said. “People should know that they aren’t going to have an average experience at [our shop]. I want to see more women, more queer and unorthodox artists in Buffalo.”
Brianna Nickerson, a Buffalo resident, has been a client of the Foxes for years. She’s gotten 17 tattoos from them and regularly goes for salon treatments from the owners.
“For any service, they make sure I’m as comfortable as possible and happy,” said Nickerson. “The knowledge both Jessica and Ashley have for their trades is what keeps me coming back.”
Oak and Iron’s hairdressers are also trained to perform “non-gendered” haircuts and don’t use “gender-based” styling products.
Tattoo artists specialize in traditional Americana, neo-traditional, geometric, dotwork and realistic portraits. The shop also invites guest artists throughout the year to offer something new. The shop minimum is $80, but it also offers a $60 “get-what-you-get” vending machine filled with small flash designs that can’t be customized.
Located at 176 Franklin St., the shop has cornered the market as the only tattoo studio in downtown Buffalo. It is surrounded by the city courts and convention center, adding a new flair to the downtown area.
And the owners have big goals for the shop’s future.
“We want to always stay fresh and bring education and youth services to the community,” Jessica Fox said. “But I’m still learning, too. I’ve been told I’m ‘too young’ and ‘haven’t done it long enough’ to get as far as I wanted. But here we are, doing it.”
Samantha Vargas is the senior features editor and can be reached on Twitter at @SamMarieVargas and Samantha.Vargas@UBSpectrum.com.