THE DOWNTOWN SAINT
But if Lee and his shop are the hip, fresh future of St. Catharines, and his surroundings are the old, weathered past, the 1968 Ford Ranchero he pulls up in is caught somewhere in between. An eight cylinder fulcrum upon which two extremes teeter and totter.
Lee parks the Ranchero under this skyway.
After a few more must-see photo ops (a high speed cruise over the Burgoyne Bridge, some under-the-hood shots in front of the burnt out pink building where they train firefighters, and a brief chat on the banks of the oddly turquoise Twelve Mile Creek) we’re back at The Downtown Saint to watch Lee in his element (rather, one of his elements).
“Mitch soon after asked if I wanted to partner up and keep the shop going,” Lee goes on to explain. “I said of course. And we changed the name to The Downtown Saint (TDS).”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Old Steeltown patches, stickers and postcards are jabbed into the corners of frames. My favourite piece of decor is what appears to be a thrifted sepia portrait of Jesus with a white ¾ motorcycle helmet blasphemously painted on top of it.
Lee works fast. Faster than most artists actually. But he’s been at it a long time, having made himself a janky little DIY kit when he was 13 and then graduating to a more professional setup when he was 18. Now 34, Lee is at the top of his game. But like his career in BMX, he speaks about his tattooing modestly, as if he’s still just sorta starting out.
He wipes the fresh blood off the top of the checkered flag when it’s complete. “A one paper towel tattoo,” Lee announces proudly to the other artists in the shop.
And I make an entrepreneurial joke about “keeping costs down”.
But when one has as many rad passions as Lee, especially ones best enjoyed in warmer weather, the threat of a 60 hour workweek can be a buzzkill.
Even to a saint.
Lee is that quiet, chilled-out, smiley dude who you won’t even really notice until he’s thrashing up a vertical wall on his BMX, bunny-hopping a moped in the middle of winter just for kicks, or jabbing your arm with a needle 3,000 times a minute⚡