Shinola, the popular mid-century shoe polish brand, was just the right mark to reintroduce for their new line of American-made watches, bikes, and other leather goods. As they’ve started putting their manufacturing operation in place, however, Shinola has proven not only to be a familiar name but also a reminder of how products can benefit from the stories behind them.
The brand revival started last year, when Bedrock set out to create a new line of high-end leather accessories. From the start, the venture was not only about the products themselves but where they would be produced: Here at home, in the U.S. In Bedrock’s eyes, the new company would be a throwback to a time when goods were built to last, when customers weighed price points with quality, and, most importantly, when those customers had an interest in who was building the products--and where.
It would be a company steeped in the values of an older era, and the founding team wanted a name to match. "We didn’t want to try to invent a name that had heritage and pretend there was history behind it," COO Heath Carr says, so they looked for inactive brands that were on the market. They eventually came across Shinola, along with the "ever-so-famous saying that comes with the name," Carr says.
Next came finding a new home. After looking at a number of cities, the team decided to establish the company in Detroit, the former manufacturing powerhouse and something of an American throwback itself. It’s a tidy fit that, like the Shinola name, Detroit too is in the early stages of a 21st-century reinvention.
In Detroit, the first order of business was finding a building to house their new watch factory, and the location they settled on was one that surprised everyone involved. The visiting Shinola team had been invited to tour the College of Creative Studies, a design school located in the historic (and recently renovated) Argonaut Building, simply to get a taste of Detroit’s young creative talent. An elevator malfunction, Carr recalls, lead to a serendipitous discovery: "The elevator, for unknown reasons, accidentally stops on the fifth floor. And the fifth floor is completely empty. And we looked around and said, 'This is perfect! You guys mind if we build a watch factory here?'"
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