The Detroit headquarters are located within the Argonaut building, another Albert Kahn design. Just an escorted elevator ride up to the fifth floor and you’re there!
The tour began...
[ Click "Read More" to continue the journey into Shinola]
Our group’s guide was Peter Shin, who, for all intents and purposes, will serve as the Detroit version of Willy Wonka, simply because he acted as our guide through the wonderment that is Shinola. He explained the watch-making process to us while dropping knowledge about the company.
So, the behind-the-scenes journey began with the strap manufacturing area. It’s an expansive industrial space that houses leather-cutting machines; these machines sound as though they are aircraft ready for takeoff! It’s crazy.
Workers man a specific operation for four months, before moving elsewhere so they don’t experience massive burnout. One thing our guide stressed was the minimal amount of waste created- there really wasn’t any. Virtually every scrap is used for something. It’s pretty amazing.
The next stop is the showroom, where prototypes are on display. The items we are shown are gorgeous, in design and quality. Each one has a unique serial number stamped onto the piece. Instead of teen spirit, the Italian leather smells like… leather. Surprise!
Anyway, Shinola slings its wares at none other than the White House. Yup, at the gift shop. Another tidbit of info is that famed fashion designer Tom Ford was brought on as a leather designer.
Now, you know it’s a good tour when you’re asked to don the plastic booties and cap set. It took all the ladies a while to step into our fancy new garb (myself included) but one thing I noticed is that the gals & I were the first ones to toss our ensembles into the bin after the tour concluded.
Before checking out the assembly area, we had the pleasure of running into Jonathan Hughes, not the filmmaker- the CFO of Shinola. After brief pleasantries, we were directed through the doors and into a sterile environment.
Now we’re standing not on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, but in a storage area and place where rows of bins are kept. There’s someone working to ensure that no flaws can be found.
On to the next one. The assembly area features employees who look like scientists, with their telescopes and magnifiers displayed on the tabletops as workers solder and assemble the timepieces. Each person is responsible for a very specific task, and Shinola cross-trains every one.
All watches are set to EST, to something Shinola has coined 'Detroit time.' [way to ride the wave of Detroit cred, Shinola!] One person is in charge of setting the time of every single watch that crosses his path. Here’s how it’s done: Ironically, he uses a digital watch head affixed to the table to get the true Detroit time.
So although nobody fell into a chocolate lagoon and the last man standing wasn’t catapulted into the air in an extraordinary manner, the behind-the-scenes tour at Shinola was interesting. It was beyond awesome to take a peek behind the curtains of modern manufacturing in Detroit.