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Downtown tattoo parlor seeks to draw positive image

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Four Auburn-raised residents have pooled their talents to open a tattoo shop in Downtown Auburn. Owner Joey Sprawka, 25, opened Utopia Tattoo and Body Piercing seven months ago on Lincoln Way. His staff includes tattoo artist Chris Ludovina, 23; Dane Brown, 20, sign maker and car pinstriper; and Bri Sosbee, 20, piercing technician. Former San Jose resident and tattoo artist Gary Koblis is also part of the crew. For Sprawka, owning his own business is a dream he’s had since childhood. He said he’s aware of the negative image often associated with tattoo parlors and hopes to counteract that. “It’s very important for us to be more of a high-end establishment,” Sprawka said Monday. “Our shop is a good example of having a good tattoo business.” That includes keeping each tattoo original and unique, and maintaining a clean and safe environment. Sprawka said he and the other tattoo artists maintain certifications in blood work, pathogens and sterilization procedures. “Everything is single-use only,” he said. The remodeled shop includes a working area at the front and an art gallery featuring tattoo-genre paintings in back. Sprawka is hosting a grand opening celebration Friday with live music, a raffle and free popcorn, cotton candy and hot dogs, along with discounts on services, he said. It will also be a special moment for Ludovina, marking completion of a 100-day, 100-painting project. “He’s going to complete the final painting during the grand opening,” Sprawka said Ludovina, who grew up loving to draw, estimates he’s spent four hours a day on each of the paintings. “It’s been a life-changing experience,” he said. His pictures will be featured at tattoo conventions in Fresno and Augusta, Ga., later this year. They’re also creating inspiration for tattoo designs, he said. Brown adds another dimension to the business, with his Sacred City Signs. He specializes in custom-lettering, gold and silver leaf as well as the pinstriping. A regular at Auburn Cruise Nites, Brown currently is working on pinstriping his own vintage car — a 1950 Ford custom. They all say the experience of having a shop in Downtown Auburn has been “awesome.” “We love all the people,” Sprawka said. Next door, Margareta Swann, owner of Golden Swann Jewelry and Collectibles Gallery, said Sprawka and his crew are good neighbors. “They are really innovative, really good artists,” she said. “They’re very polite — just nice kids. I even bought a raffle ticket for a tattoo. And I’m going to give it away if I win.” However, Swann would like to see more retail shops move into Downtown. “The only beef I have is we have too many service businesses on the street when they could be upstairs or in the back. We need a good shopping environment. That has nothing to do with (Utopia). They are bringing foot traffic, but it is after-hours mostly. I just wish we had more retail shops for us all to survive.” Foresthill resident Mark Kimberlin visited Utopia to get a tattoo from Ludovina this week. “It’s very clean. It’s a nice shop,” he said. “It’s one of the nicest in town and I like the artists.” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com --------- Utopia Tattoo and Body Piercing Where: 885 Lincoln Way, Downtown Auburn Phone: (530) 823-8288 Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, weekends until 10 p.m. and later by appointment Grand opening: Noon to 10 p.m. Friday with live music, raffle and painting to begin at 5:30 p.m.