‘Tattoo ministry’

Exclusive Tattoo Co.

Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

Joe Anthony Sanchez, or “Mr. Sanchez,” as he’s known at his shop, Exclusive Tattoo Co., has been in the ink business for 15 years. Before he started, he said he hated his job picking fruit in Orland and Durham. He got his first tattoo when he was 15 years old (his last name, which is now covered up by a flower on his right arm). He chuckled while reminiscing: He was drawn to tattooing because of “what I thought was the lifestyle of a tattoo artist.” It developed into a passion that extended beyond the art and into the spiritual realm. Sanchez, who is a nondenominational Christian, says his vision for the shop is one that includes “spreading the word” and giving back to the community. Sanchez opened the shop 3 1/2 years ago with two business partners, but after buying them out, he’s the sole owner and part of a team of five artists. Most recently, he downsized and has some aesthetic touchups in store. He’s also considering opening another location in Sacramento. To make an appointment, call 715-7286, or visit the shop on Facebook or at 2109 Esplanade, Ste. 100.

How do you like running your own shop?

It’s good. I like the freedom of setting my own schedule. I didn’t want to be a business owner, but it kind of happened. I was tired of working at another shop where the owner was never there. I didn’t want to float somebody else’s shop. [At first,] I only had enough money to open up the doors … to pay the rent and the deposit and that was it.

What makes Exclusive Tattoo Co. stand out?

[It’s] custom. We don’t have flash up on the wall. You can’t just walk in and pick something off the wall; we’ve got to draw it for you. When [customers] come in, if they haven’t heard about us, we tell them, “Look, the design you have, it’s an awesome design. We’d like to take that design and make it our own, just for you, so no one else has it, you know what I mean?” The hardest canvas is the skin. You have to know how to tattoo on a range of skin tones, colors, body shapes.

Do you have some favorite pieces you’ve done?

Jesus tattoos. God-related stuff is awesome. I say, “Cool, it’s Jesus. Let me tell you about Jesus.” Preach the gospel a little bit.

What is your vision for the shop?

What’s left after bills, I want to take that money and build the tattoo ministry: We go with Bibles and pray for people and feed the unfortunate. It starts here: I have [Christian rap] videos playing on my TV … and [customers are] like, “Oh, who’s this?” and I tell them and I just start talking about God. [And] I want people to feel welcome here. I want people to know that they’re not going to get attitude from anyone here. That we’re not hard-headed, we’re not disrespectful to people.