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Shinola aims to show it's more than watches, wheels

When Shinola/Detroit LLC opens its first store in Detroit on Friday, visitors will find an eclectic mix of retail and on-site bicycle production.

They'll be able to buy a luxury watch or bicycle, peruse other made-in-the-U.S.A. goods or artwork, watch bicycles being made, grab some raw juice and rest in a vintage seating area or on the outdoor patio.

Jacques Panis

"Watches, bicycles and juice -- people probably scratch their heads," said Shinola President Jacques Panis.

"But at the end of the day ... when things are going right, we try to go left."

The Detroit store represents the core of the Shinola brand, said the company's creative director, Daniel Caudill. It will mix luxury watches and bicycles with high-quality craftsmanship from many product categories.

"I want people to walk in here and look, smell, see and experience the brand," Caudill said.

Set in an old Jeep warehouse in theWillys Overland Loftson Canfield Street, Shinola's new Detroit store has an industrial feel. But it's well-lit, with original skylights and a wall of windows opening onto Canfield.

Its concrete floors have been polished to reveal a marble-looking surface, and its walls are the original exposed brick.

By late this week, glass showcases with Shinola's made-in-Detroit watches will be positioned not far from a glass-walled room where bicycle assembly and welding will take place -- with occasional sparks and grinding visible.

The store also will feature and sell the work of artists from near and far, including pieces from students at theCollege for Creative Studies, where Shinola's watchmaking operations are situated.

Caudill said he'd like to bring CCS student artwork to Shinola's New York City store after its July opening, as well.

The company also plans cross promotions at its Detroit and New York stores with products from other American-made quality brands such as:Detroit Denim Co.; North Carolina-basedMap of Days, with its leather-wrapped bike locks and other leather goods; Detroit ceramicist andLocal Portionfounder Elysia Vandenbussche; and Detroit metalsmithSmithshop.

Curated products, such as top-of-the-line pens to display with Shinola's leather journals, will help draw attention to quality products and Shinola products, Caudill said.

Plymouth-basedDroughtwill operate a raw juice bar in the new store, and nearby seating will invite customers and others to linger during business hours and serve as flexible gathering space for private, after-hours events such as charity fundraisers or book signings.

"There are a ton of amazing people in Detroit," Panis said. "What better for a company or a brand (than) to engage with those people and to work with (them) on all levels?"

It's about being part of the community, he said. "And when you're part of the community, you've got to have your doors open."

In addition to working on the openings of its Detroit and New York stores, Shinola has secured additional distribution for its watches withTapper's Fine Jewelry Inc.,Barney's,Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth AvenueandNordstrom.

Shinola is also making plans to expand its product categories to a range of lifestyle goods, Caudill said, from blankets to lighting to footballs and baseballs (produced by New Jersey-basedLeather Head Sports) and eventually Shinola footwear made in the U.S.

Source: Crain's Detroit

Posted on 6/25/2013

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