A few weeks back, January 30th to be exact, I published a post about Dog Ears Bookstore. When I shared it on social media, not one, but three people contacted me and told me about a fundraiser for Dog Ears that their tattoo artist puts together. That tattoo artist is David Jednat, owner of Grey Havens Tattoos (the name is a nod to Lord of the Rings) on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.
I was intrigued. So I contacted David and went over to see him a couple of days ago. My first thought as I parked and approached was ‘What a cool building…’. You all know how I love a good building. And it’s right between two of my favorite South Buffalo bars, Hopper’s Rush Inn and Blackthorn Pub. I’ve got a good feeling.
As busy as everyone in the shop obviously was, David immediately came over and greeted me at the custom made curved counter with a unique penny motif. I’ve heard of people doing the penny counter thing, but I’ve never seen it done. I found out later that David and Kody, one of the other tattoo artists, built the counters here. They’re impressive. Especially since they worked with no plan. Just sort of made it up as they went along. Nice.
Grey Havens Tattoos
As David get’s ready for his first client of the day, he chat’s easily about himself. He’s been a tattoo artist for nine years now, two of those years here in his own shop. He opened the shop in December of 2017. There are five tattoo artists here, including David, each one their own boss. David explains that the artists are contractors and they rent space from him, much like hair stylists. They have their own following, set their own prices, etc. David also brings in guest artists on occasion for events, or if they just happen to be in town.
Tattoo artists also travel to conventions all over the country. I’m told that these events can be both fun and lucrative. Interesting. This is a whole new world for me. You see, I don’t have any tattoos. Yet.
In case you’re one of those people who worries, tattoo artists are required to be licensed by Erie County, and this includes guest artists who are only there for a day. The Erie County Health Department Permit is right up on the counter for all to see, as required by law. The artists here are taking care of business, and after watching the prep involved, it certainly looks as though everyone here knows what they’re doing. Rest assured, this place is clean and the regulations are being followed.
The shop itself is spacious, eclectic, and well, laid back. There’s a real relaxed atmosphere here. Artists and clients chit chat while fantastic art is being made. The work they do is incredible. I’m amazed. I mean, we’ve all seen beautiful tattoos. But I’ve never sat down and watched the process. These artists are talented! I’ll show you more of their stuff later.
What Else is There?
As if tattoos aren’t enough, in the adjoining space, there is a piercing shop called Moria’s Piercing and Jewelry, also owned by David, and also a Lord of the Rings reference. 😉 Jess runs the show over there.
What Does All This Have To Do With Dog Ears Bookstore?
Good question. While living on Normal Street, David and his wife Melissa (then girlfriend) would head over to the Blackthorn Pub and have dinner on Friday nights. When a tattoo artist friend suggested they go for dessert at Dog Ears Cafe, they figured why not?
They fell in love with the place, just like I did. Not just for the delicious vegan baked goods (David is not vegan), but also for the books. It’s of course, all about the books at Dog Ears. So, the Blackthorn, Dog Ears for dessert and the books became their new Friday night tradition.
Hanging out at Dog Ears, they got to know Tom McDonnell, the owner. David tells me the story of how he was searching for a hard to find book on tattooing. Tom McDonnell knew a guy who happened to have one and he bought it, and gave it to David for the same price he paid. That’s, I’ve learned, who Tom is.
The Jednats became friends with Tom McDonnell. Tom not only helped to find hard to get tattooing books, he also helped set David up with a tattooing apprenticeship. He was even the minister at their wedding!
Time to Give Back
David explained that when he opened his own shop he was looking for a way to give back. That’s the thing about Buffalo business owners that I love the most. The willingness to share, pay it forward, and give back. To the people who have helped, to the community, and to the city.
In David’s case, when he decided he wanted to give back, he thought of Tom and Dog Ears. A worthy cause for sure. Dog Ears Bookstore has helped so many people through the years. Read about Dog Ears here.
So that’s how the fundraiser came to be. And it’s been a huge success so far, they’re coming up on the third annual (Sunday, March 8 at noon) and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. $50 for select tattoos, discounts on piercings, a basket raffle, pizza… you can read more specifics at Grey Haven’s event on facebook. It sounds like fun, and it’s for a great cause. They’re looking to do 100 tattoos this year! So if you were thinking about getting one anyway…you might want to check it out.
Some Photos of Tattoos in Process
I was really grateful that everyone was fine with me walking around snapping photos of their works in progress, both the artists and the clients. And they were so nice about it!
And Some Finished Artwork
One of David’s clients, Mary Kate, was kind enough to let me get some shots of her tatts. She’s living up to the message she wears on her right bicep. Thank you for that Mary Kate.
And Some More From Facebook and Instagram
My Impressions of Grey Havens Tattoos
So I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any tattoos. Not yet. I can tell you that when I do get one, and I will, it’ll be at Grey Havens Tattoos. The high level of professionalism, along with just the right amount of personality is a good mix here, in my opinion.
It’s nice to see good people, doing good things for other good people. We all have something to give, and as for Grey Havens Tattoos and Dog Ears Bookstore, they’re both giving generously. This is the type of thing that makes Buffalo great.
So, on March 8, between noon and 8pm, head over to Grey Havens Tattoos at 2116 Seneca Street in South Buffalo. Get a tattoo, buy some chances on the raffle, or just donate. It’s what Buffalonians do. Can’t make it on March 8? They’re open everyday, noon – 8, except Sunday and Monday. Oh, and when you’re there, ask David about his ‘thing’ for human bones…
Check out Grey Havens facebook page and instagram. And here are the links to the artists personal pages as well. The tattoos are incredible.
A couple months ago, I opened an email and immediately hovered the cursor over the delete button. But something made me stop and read it. And I’m glad I did. The email was from P.A. (Paul) Kane, who runs his own website over at Buffalo Mud. Paul mentioned that he volunteers regularly at Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe, a little hidden gem over on Abbott Road in South Buffalo. He suggested I might write a blog post about it.
Little Hidden Gem
So last week, I headed over to Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe. And hidden gem is a perfect description of this place.
My first impression walking in the door, was “What a cute little cafe.” And it is little, the cafe that is. Tiny, in fact. But as it turns out, the menu is anything but cute, it’s downright impressive. There is definitely something for everyone. The regulars seem to genuinely like the staff here too. That’s important.
I spent a few minutes getting a cup of tea and walking around the first floor taking pictures, while I waited for Tom McDonnell, the store’s Executive Director. I notice that this place is full of real Buffalo charm. It’s a mixture between tables to eat or work at, cozy little nooks to read in, and books. Tons of books. It’s then that I notice the amount of books for sale that are written by local authors (evidenced by the signage pointing them out). Later I would find out that this bookstore offers the largest variety of books by local authors in the city. Cool. There are lots and lots of books about Buffalo too. Love it.
The ‘Literary Center’
When Tom is ready, he and I head up to the Literary Center via the open circular staircase. There is a literary quote on the tread of each stair. There are fifteen stairs and Tom explains that five of the quotes are from classic literature, five are poetry, and five are from children’s literature. The authors of the quotes are written on the backs of the open treads. Sweet. I’m starting to fall in love with this place.
The entire second floor opens up to the Literary Center. It’s decorated with children in mind, but it’s very comfortable for adults as well. It’s here that the learning and the fun takes place.
The Man Behind the Books
Once upstairs, Tom speaks humbly but confidently about the buying of the building in 2006, and the journey to what Dog Ears Bookstore has become today. That is, a cafe (which was an existing cafe before as Caz Coffee Cafe), a non-profit book store and Literary Center. You see Tom has a masters degree in education, but instinctively knew he didn’t want to teach in the traditional sense. He wanted to teach both adults and children to have a passion for reading and writing. He chose a not-for-profit bookstore to realize his dream.
I should mention that the whole time we talked, Tom, who is the Executive Director, busied himself with the mundane tasks of readying the literary center for the weekly “Puppy Tales” story hour. And when I say mundane, I mean it. How many Executive Directors do you know who would count vanilla wafers into individual servings, load straws into juice pouches, count out scissors and bottles of glue for each of the 22 children who would be arriving soon? Not many, I can tell you that.
Although I’ve just met him, I get a strong sense that he wouldn’t have it any other way. Doing this stuff himself I mean. It just wouldn’t occur to him to get someone else to do it for him.
And he speaks freely and humbly about Dog Ears the whole time. This is clearly his life’s work. His love and passion for it come through loud and clear. What an amazing thing it is to watch someone go about living their passion. It’s days like these I love my job.
Tom talks about the community. It’s very important to him. He not only says this, he lives it. It seems to come naturally to him. You live in a community, you support that community, and you serve that community. It’s who he is. And it’s what Dog Ears Bookstore has become.
Dog Ears, A Not For Profit
The book store is supported through book sales, as well as through grants from several sources with Tom doing the bulk of the grant writing himself. The website lists several sponsors of the programs that take place here. Tom mentions Chris Scanlon, their local congressman and Erie County as being big supporters of their programs, among many others. The sponsors help to keep the costs of the programs at little or nothing for the participants.
There are also many volunteers who keep the place humming, running the day to day operations of the bookstore. Tom says they couldn’t survive without their volunteers.
Any profits go back into three things: programming, the upkeep of the building, and salaries for Tom and the Volunteer Coordinator, Lynn Carloni. They are the only two paid employees. The cafe is self-supportive and the salaries there come from cafe proceeds.
The Programs at Dog Ears
A moment ago, I mentioned programs. Sure Dog Ears is a bookstore, but it’s really much more than that. The Literary Center on the second floor is host to at least seven programs. The children’s programs are:
Puppy Tales – more about that in a couple of minutes
Movie Night – 3rd Friday of each month, age appropriate children’s movie
Summer Reading and Writing Camps – six weeks in the summer
After School Homework Help Program
The adult programs are:
Dog Ears Book Club – all welcome – nominal fee
4th Friday Poetry Night – small donation to cover snacks
Writer’s Workshop – runs in 6 week blocks – moderated by John Schreier
Information on all of these can be found at the book store. The Literary Center is also available to rent for book clubs and other meetings at $25/hour.
Puppy Tales at Dog Ears
Soon enough, it was time for the kids to come in for Puppy Tales. I’m not going to lie. I had intended to leave before the program started, so I could go through my photos to be sure I got all that I needed before I headed across town for another appointment.
But when the kids began to arrive and I saw the way they related to ‘Mr. Tom’ I couldn’t drag myself away. They were all (22 of them!) absolutely enthralled with Tom, who had taken his seat in the rocker, and spent a few minutes just talking to the kids. And listening. One little guy announced, “Tom, Tom, we have a new baby!” So cute!
Once everyone had arrived, Tom talked with the kids about the letters of the day. Colors. Numbers. Days of the week. Then he read them a book, inserting his own funny comments, cracking the kids up all throughout. He was really in his element now. As I walked around taking photos, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. This is truly what Tom is meant to do. And this is why the kids were so excited coming in, and why the parents and grandparents didn’t seem to mind having to stay. It’s because they were enjoying it as much as the kids!
For these lucky little ones, Tom is laying the foundation of what he calls the four phases of reading. Learning to read. Reading to learn. Reading for content. And reading for life. What a wonderful philosophy.
I can tell you this, if the other programs at Dog Ears are half as good as Puppy Tales (and I hear that they are), any one of them would be worth taking part in.
I realize I talk about gratitude pretty often in these posts. What can I say, I choose to live gratefully. So, today I’m grateful to Paul Kane for sending me that random email. It’s things like this that make me love this town even more. Just to know that Buffalonians still reach out to each other to offer ideas for creativity. And I’m even more grateful to have gotten to know Dog Ears Bookstore, with all the amazing things that are happening at this small, local business.
After all, this is what Buffalo is about. We have great people all over the city doing their thing, in unassuming ways, helping to rebuild our town by strengthening one community at a time. And don’t forget those who offer ideas to people like me. I am fortunate to be able to meet some of them through my work. Tom McDonnell and his non-profit bookstore are now among my favorites.
Dog Ears’ website is linked above, but you should really visit to see the place for yourself. It’s located at 688 Abbott Road in South Buffalo. Plan on grabbing a bite to eat. And while you’re at it, pick up a couple of books. Try to make at least one of them by a local author. Also, be prepared to fall in love with the place.
That’s enough pontificating for one day, I’ve got to go. I have to call Tom McDonnell to see if I can get my granddaughter into the next session of Puppy Tales.
**p.s. Dog Ears is having their annual fundraiser on April 25; the theme this year is the Roaring Twenties and more information will be available soon at the store.