Primo’s is home to resident ink masters

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Tattoo artist Scott McAlister is at the helm as Primo’s manager in Winters. (Scott McAlister/Courtesy photos)

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Tucked away right next to Pisani’s NAPA Auto Parts is the original Primo’s Barber & Tattoo shop. Although the haircutting aspect of the business has since been left to other Primo’s locations, the shop in Winters stands as the town’s premier spot for individuals to get inked.

Primo’s first opened back in April of 2017. The owner, Juan Desmarais, remodeled the building and created a hybrid business that was part barbershop and part tattoo shop. By 2020, Desmarais had opened a number of barbershops around the area and shifted gears for the Primo’s in Winters to be a tattoo-exclusive shop with artist Scott McAlister at the helm as manager.

“When people walk in here they feel cool because it’s so hot outside and we got the AC blasting. But in all seriousness, people say there’s a good vibe in here. People come in and they don’t feel overwhelmed or anxious like they would at other places where they have metal playing super loud,” explained McAlister. “It’s very welcoming in here and it’s a smaller shop. You get more of a one-on-one experience and it’s like a comfort zone. People come here and it’s almost like they’re getting a tattoo from a friend. It’s not an awkward experience whatsoever and we always have good music playing.”

Essentially, customers reach out McAlister — or any of the other Primo’s tattoo artists — and they go over their ideas. When the customers show up, McAlister will design the tattoo with them present and make any adjustments needed to the concept. After the joint effort, the tattoo creation commences and the customer receives a new layer individual expression.

“I’ve been drawing my entire life, but for a good portion of my adult life I was working construction and my friends kept pressuring me into getting into tattooing. Finally, they took the initiative and spoke to the owner of the previous shop I was at and they gave me a shot. Since then, I haven’t turned back,” McAlister explained his initiation into tattooing. “I’ve always been into the art and it’s pretty cool to sit and conversate with people for a few hours. It’s like a therapy session in here. People sit and I’m like Dr. Phil.”

Of course, the story and success of Primo’s tattoo shop cannot be told without Cole Kickingwoman. Not only was he the first tattoo artist and staple within the shop, he helped get McAlister his chance to work there. Kickingwoman passed away in January of 2022 and his presence, energy and humor remain sorely missed by his coworkers and customers alike.

“I didn’t start Primo’s with any clue that it would become one of the most popular tattoo shops around. I owe a lot to the late, Cole Kickingwoman who set down our tattooing roots in this city. Working with Cole was the highlight of the first five years of being in business,” said Primo’s owner Juan Desmarais. “I’m excited to see where the tattoo shop goes under Scott McAlister! He and Pilar are wonderful artists and we are lucky to have them as part of the Primo’s crew.”

Although Kickingwoman — or ‘Coleslaw’ as Desmarais would say — is gone, his memory lives on in every tattoo he created and is felt through the positive vibes in the shop.

If one thinking about getting a tattoo, they can visit Primo’s Tattoo Shop at 7 Abbey St., call them at 707-372-5589 or check out their Instagram handle by searching
@primostattooshop.

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