Manufacturing the Comeback of the Motor City
Oct 01, 2013
Known in the early 20th century as a producer of shoe polish, the Shinola name had long faded from the American marketplace. The brand is being reinvented today as a manufacturer of high-quality goods like watches and bicycles, bringing jobs and more to the Motor City. “There was a buzz in Detroit,” said Brian Ambrozy, Community Manager at Shinola. “I started following the brand and getting really excited about what they were trying to accomplish. I saw the big vision right from the beginning.”
Shinola set up shop in a 30,000 square foot space in Detroit’s historic Argonaut Building. Even before reaching full production capacity in 2012, the company had earned national acclaim for revitalizing manufacturing and the city. “We knew that no matter what city we picked, there wouldn’t be a trained workforce, that we would have to create that,” said Heath Carr, CEO of Shinola’s parent company, Bedrock Manufacturing. “We needed a city that was willing to believe in our story and participate.”
Watchmaking is Shinola’s flagship business. Parts are shipped from Switzerland and assembled in Detroit. Shinola’s watch assembly has 20 employees and its bicycle assembly has two. Their goal is to make high-quality, heirloom products that can be passed down through families. The market for Shinola products is growing steadily. The company’s first-ever, limited-edition watch line, The Runwell, sold out before its March 2013 distribution.
Bank of America Client Manager Matthew Renna believed in Shinola from the beginning. He had supported other Bedrock Manufacturing ventures dating back to 2009 and he trusted the watchmaking talents of the firm’s owner, Tom Kartsotis of Fossil Inc. The bank provided Shinola with credit cards and foreign exchange services to start. “I think it’s about the relationship,” said Carr. “Bank of America’s a very large company and Shinola’s very small today, but we felt very important to them and we felt like they would be a strong partner in years to come.”
Shinola might not be small for long. The company recently opened its first retail store in Detroit. A store in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood and another facility in Detroit are in their future plans. With Bank of America’s by its side, Shinola is reemerging as a preeminent American brand.