It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in Detroit. My family first arrived in the metro area (more specifically, a sleepy suburb) when I was just going on six, drawn to the area by the promise of the then-booming auto industry. But when the wholesale collapse of car manufacturers and the credit crisis of 2008 went down, many families like my own were hit. Hard.
It wasn’t long before the Motor City became a euphemism for what happens when everything that can go wrong, well, does. What really stayed with me, however, is that no matter how bad things got, Detroit never lost hope.
That’s why Shinola, a watch and leather goods company whose story I’ve been following closely since they set up shop in Detroit, hits so close to home for me. Where some businesses saw a hard-luck city and steered clear, Shinola saw an opportunity to build a luxury brand, create skilled jobs and revitalize the American manufacturing tradition. The company’s faith in the city paid off, and now Shinola is one of the many reasons residents are proud to call the city home.
But you didn’t have to grow up in Detroit to appreciate Shinola’s story. We Canadians pride ourselves on our commitment to the social good, and brands that reflect our desire to do better by our neighbours are the first to earn our loyalty. And for a company built in Detroit, Shinola sure takes a Canadian approach to improving communities.
“It’s really nice to know that our story and the causes we are passionate about resonate on a global level and not just in Michigan and inside the U.S.,” says Daniel Caudill, Shinola’s creative director. “Whether it be though charitable and creative partnerships or simply becoming a part of the neighbourhood where people come to hang out, we always want to have a positive impact.”
It seems rather fitting then that Shinola’s first Canadian retail store would land in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood, a character-rich area where high-end clothiers like Tiger of Sweden can exist alongside community-focused enterprises like Academy of Lions.
The new location puts industry front-row centre, with a massive bicycle chandelier suspended above displays of Runwell watches and faux-retro memorabilia punctuating shelves of leather goods. Toward the back of the joint you can build your own timepiece at the watch bar, or press a custom monogram into your journal cover (or wallet, or backpack, or briefcase). Most interesting, however, is a wall dedicated to the artisans who create each piece by hand, complete with pictures and profiles.
I was invited to preview Shinola’s new home base at Queen and Ossington (1000 Queen St. W.) ahead of its grand opening in late July. Check out more photos below.