Two in a row: Owners of The Fish Bowl launch tattoo and piercing studio next door

Published 12:02 am Friday, February 4, 2022

SALISBURY — Branson Hurst and Chris Ostle knew they wanted to open a second business before they knew what kind.

The duo, who own and operate The Fish Bowl bar in downtown Salisbury, brainstormed by jotting down possibilities on a sheet of paper and debating their merits.

Although a coffee shop and noodle bar were concepts they tossed around, Hurst and Ostle ruled out food and beverage businesses. They eventually landed on a tattoo and piercing parlor — even though neither of them have given a tattoo or piercing before. The duo liked the idea because it’s internet-proof, meaning they won’t have to compete with big box internet retailers like Amazon.

“I like the idea that it will never go online,” Hurst said. “It will always be a brick and mortar style.”

Touch of Grey Tattoo & Piercing Studio officially opened on Tuesday. The stylish spot is located at 129 E. Innes St., right next door to Ostle’s and Hurst’s existing bar. The building was formerly occupied by a clothing store. When the duo got the keys in October, they got to work transforming the space to fit their vision.

The studio might be adjacent to The Fish Bowl, but the business has an entirely different look and feel. Instead of dark walls, lowlights and graffiti-style artwork, Touch of Grey has big street-facing windows and a cozy interior decorated in hues of brown and green. Large TVs show a burning fireplace and one nook of the studio is a dedicated place for customers to snap a shot of their new tattoo or piercing under quality lighting.

“It’s a good change of pace,” Hurst said.

The name for the studio is inspired by the Grateful Dead’s 1987 song “Touch of Grey.” To commemorate the opening of the new shop, Ostle got the studio’s artist, Paul Camara, to give him a tattoo with a lyric from the song. The new ink matches a tattoo with The Fish Bowl’s logo Camara gave him previously.

“Collecting businesses and tattoos,” Ostle said.

Camara is responsible for several of Ostle’s tattoos, which is why he was brought on as the shop’s first artist.

“He came on about a month before we opened up and got us through the final steps and stages and helped us out a ton,” Hurst said.

Touch of Grey is adding two more tattoo artists next week. The studio has capacity for several more, so the duo said they may have additional staff depending on demand.

“We’re trying to start out small and then grow into our own shoes here,” Hurst said.

Tattoos and piercings aren’t the only offerings at the studio. Hanging near the front windows are black shirts branded with the shop’s first logo. More apparel sporting alternate logos could be added eventually, Ostle said. The shop also sells glass smoking pipes, many of them crafted in North Carolina. The upstairs of the business is currently empty, but the duo plans on using the space, perhaps as a printing studio or as a place to showcase and sell local art.

“The possibilities are endless for us, honestly,” Ostle said.

Touch of Grey is open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., but operating hours fluctuate based on appointments. In-person consultations are available and appointments can be made by calling 980-643-4210. More information can be found on the studio’s Facebook page.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

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