Booming lifestyle brand Shinola is expanding locally with a new outpost at 51 Highland Park Village. It took just a week and a half for the Detroit-based lifestyle brand to transform the space — previously home to Hermès — into an ode to American craftsmanship.
The swift move seems on par for the business that has only been selling watches since March 2013 and already has 12 standalone stores, two in the Dallas area. Looking at this rapid growth, do the brand’s executives worry about becoming a big, bland business?
“The only thing we really worry about is that the stores feel warm and different, and never feel like chains,” creative director Daniel Caudill said on a recent visit to the new location. “We really try to create an environment where the store is truly a part of the community.”
To that end, Shinola’s stores often host pop-up shops with local florists or ice creameries for special occasions. The downtown Plano store, which opened in May underneath the offices of parent company Bedrock Manufacturing, recently presented a special event with several Texas craftspeople.
Caudill hopes the Highland Park store will feel just as inviting. He was pleased, during his visit, to see customers sitting and chatting in the shop’s small lounge area, which is outfitted with concrete floors and a well-worn rug under midcentury furniture.
The store’s design is otherwise clean and structured, allowing the hodgepodge that is Shinola’s merchandise — everything from watches to bicycles to leather accessories to journals — to take the spotlight.
Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry constructed from white American oak houses most of the watches. Though one might expect timepieces that range in price from $475-$2,250 to be kept safely behind lock-and-key, the cubbies remain open.
“You want people to touch stuff,” Caudill said. “You feel the weight of the watch and you touch the leather, then you realize the quality behind it and how good the product is.”
Quality is the company’s focus, and many of Shinola’s products are created in partnership with American artists or craftspeople. A goose-feather dog bed (starting from $180) was created in a collaboration with iconic fashion photographer and dog lover Bruce Weber; a rope dog toy (from $15) is made by a family business that has been tying knots in Mystic, Connecticut, for four generations.
A leather basketball ($225) is hand-cut and sewn in New Jersey by Leather Head Sports. Another New Jersey company, Proedge, makes an aluminum art knife with leather around the handle ($48), courtesy of Shinola’s go-to tannery, Horween Leather Company in Chicago. Shinola even sells the best book darts ($15) in the country — paper-thin metal pieces, precision cut by a couple in Hood River, Oregon.
Shinola’s marketing pushes the phrase “built to last,” but this is not a brand bent on mimicking vintage goods.
“When people think vintage, they think of a fake wash where it’s worn down and sanded off, and that’s not this brand,” Caudill said. “This brand is modern and there’s definite inspiration from classic things, but it’s not made to look vintage. It’s made to look new. It will never be dusty.”