Shinola, a new company with an old name that set up shop in Detroit, is looking to tap into the city's rich history of design and manufacturing. It's also looking to tap into a new energy that CEO Heath Carr expects will fuel Shinola's future.
"If you get into your car and you drive around Detroit, you can understand the past," said Carr. "The people we met weren't so focused on the past, they were focused on the future and where this was going. That energy is what we wanted to tie into."
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When scouting for a factory location two years ago, Shinola met members of the Detroit Economic Growth Council, or DECG. With the city in financial straits, the council does not lead with economic incentives to bring new firms to the Motor City, instead it focuses on helping them find real estate and the business partners they will need to set up shop in Detroit.
"Shinola is the perfect intersection of what Detroit does best, designing beautiful products and making them" said Olga Stella, vice president for business development at the DECG. "We are so glad Shinola recognized that about Detroit and decided to make its home here."
What Shinola is making in Detroit right now are the movements, or tiny motors that will be placed in its watches. The movement kits are provided by Shinola's Swiss partner, Ronda AG. Ronda also provided training for the 12 workers now putting together the movements, which are made up of 48 pieces held together by tiny screws.
This spring, the factory floor will expand to include a watch assembly line. While Shinola cannot source all the watches parts from manufacturers in the United States, the leather for the straps comes from Horween Leather Co. in Chicago, and it has the straps stitched by Hadley-Roma of Roma Industries in Largo, Fla.
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But Detroit is at the heart of Shinola's smoothly presented story. Each face of a Shinola watch will bear the name of the city and the back of each is stamped with the words "Made in Detroit."