A SHINY, RED BICYCLE greets you at the entrance to Shinola’s new holiday shop purveying watches, leather goods, paper products, bikes, some apparel and shoe polish (the name of the company is a nod to the shoe-polish brand manufactured in the early-to-mid 20th century).
Located on 1534 14th St. NW, in the heart of the U Street Corridor, D.C.’s destination for established cool, Shinola’s claim to fame is that its products are (mostly) made, not just in the U.S.A., but in hard-hit Detroit. With the abiding sentiment to “buy American,” company executives went one better and based operations in Motor City, counting on consumers to be moved by the city’s story and respond to the need to help an underdog.
Also notable is that Shinola founder Tom Kartsotis was the former head of Fossil, a mega-successful, inexpensive watch brand. Not surprisingly, 98 percent of Shinola’s business is watches. The company produced 55,000 watches last year and expects to do three times that amount this year, according to CEO Steve Bock. Unlike Fossil’s, though, these timepieces ain’t cheap, starting at $475 for the women’s double-wrap, leather strap “Birdy” and going up to $1,500 for the men’s “Black Blizzard.”
Bock stresses the quality factor when he talks about Shinola products. Take the back of the watch: it is a stamped metal plate, engraved with a serial number. The watches with cushy leather straps are made by companies that have both been around for 100 years. And then there’s the presentation. Watches come packaged in a wooden box lined in black cardboard, which includes a small tin of leather balm, a leather carrying pouch and a small plaque with the name of the watchmaker.
No watches on your holiday shopping list? How about a handsome, hand-stitched leather piggy bank with a nickel lock and key ($190), a linen-covered journal handcrafted in Ann Arbor, Michigan ($17.95) or toasty deerskin gloves ($62)? Also quite fetching, at least as worn by a young Shinola staffer, an updated, slim-fitting classic varsity jacket in wool with leather sleeves ($410).
If budget is no concern, that 11-speed men’s Runwell bicycle in the window will set you back $2,950; the three-speed Bixby women’s bike, which comes in pink or teal, is a mere $1,950.
Holiday hours (starting tomorrow, Nov. 21): Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The permanent store location will open at 1361 14th St. NW in early 2015.