New Kid on the Block: Shinola

Shinola roomRarely reported in the recent press about Detroit’s financial troubles is the creative class working hard to transform the city. Exhibit A: Shinola, which just opened its second store on Franklin Street. (The first, in Detroit, debuted two weeks ago.) “The core of the brand is really about bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.,” says creative director Daniel Caudill.

The Shinola brand has been around for decades, although only until very recently did it stand for anything besides shoe polish. (The “don’t know shit from Shinola” line comes from a possibly apocryphal tale of a World War II soldier putting one over on a commanding officer.) It’s now owned by Bedrock Manufacturing, the Dallas-based company that also owns Filson and is an investor in Steven Alan (whose offices relocated to above Shinola). Bedrock’s ambitions go way beyond shoe care: To start, the store has Shinola bikes, watches, leather goods—with free on-site embossing—and journals, along with smaller, quirkier items, from Shinola baseballs to Shinola brads to Shinola pencil sharpeners. (Many are proudly emblazoned with “Made in Detroit.”) Caudill says that Shinola will start selling chronographs next year, and then expand its leather line. Shoes and clothing are a ways off, although we can expect a few pieces here and there.

When I visited the semi-raw space last August, the plans were to have the space be half-wholesale showroom, half-shop, but the showroom is now upstairs, and the store feels entirely retail oriented. To fill in the gaps, Shinola has collaborated with other companies, brought in art books, and sourced products from brands it likes (many of which are from Detroit): Detroit Cargo bike bags, Gitman Bros. shirts, Detroit Denim jeans, Local Portion ceramics, Map of Days bike locks, Smith Shop jewelry (made with hardware salvaged from foreclosed Detroit houses). It makes for a fun browse, with surprises on every shelf—such as the tins of Shinola shoe polish.

The store was designed by Tribeca’s own David Rockwell. The main room, at the far end, has a double-high ceiling, with a catwalk reached by a spiral staircase, and a faux skylight with LEDs that change to mimic the light outside. At the front of the store is a small, handsome café, the Smile Newsstand, run by the folks behind the Smile in Noho and the Smile to Go in Soho. It’s open from 7:30 a.m., serving coffee, pastries, and light fare.

Shinola is at 177 Franklin (between Hudson and Greenwich), 917-728-3000; shinola.com.

Shinola Smile Newsstand counterShinola bikeShinola fresco world mapShinola shoesShinola office suppliesShinola green bagShinola caseShinola Gitman Bros shirtsShinola the Smith Shop nail ringShinola Detroit Crago bike bagShinola baseballShinola card caseShinola pencilsShinola windowShinola shoe polishRecent New Kid on the Block/First Impressions articles:
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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for these beautiful photos – I went to visit the store last weekend and it was certainly a beauty. It was all I could do to escape without a watch and one of those adorable leather piggybanks. :) I’ve been stopping at The Smile Newsstand for coffee on the way to work and super-friendly Kyle behind the counter told me their opening hours are now 7am on weekdays and 9am on weekends – and they close when Shinola closes. But only Shinola’s hours are on the door right now so it can be confusing if you’re just walking by. Just FYI!

  2. any knowledge of whether the manufacturing is done in detroit (i mean REALLY in detroit, not some place like royal oak) and employing citizens of the city (not commuters)?

  3. Urban cowgirl,
    In downtown Detroit using mostly previously unemployed locals from the automotive industry, trained by swiss watchmakers. Pretty big deal.

  4. i’m completely impressed and an instant fan!