Detroit-based retailer Shinola celebrates its Washington, D.C. launch.
Story and photos by Erica Tropp
About 250 politicians, public figures, athletes, and Washington hipsters gathered in a 1920s showroom-turned-storefront to celebrate the grand opening of Shinola’s flagship location in the District.
Shinola, a Detroit-based upscale retailer of handmade watches, leather products, pet accessories and bicycles, opened its permanent location in the Logan Circle section of 14th street in late September. Since November of last year, the store had been working out of a temporary location a few blocks down the road.
The store was lined with products on display ranging from watches to leather backpacks, bicycles, and even leather sporting equipment such as basketballs, footballs and baseball mitts. Company president Jacques Panis said, “It’s all made with pride and love and integrity and it’s very high quality.”
The walls featured black and white illustrations from local artist Martin Swift, who became involved with Shinola through Washington Project for the Arts, which works directly with the company to find local talent. “We like highlighting makers in the communities that we have stores in, whether it’s an artist or someone who’s making baseball bats or soaps,” said Panis. “It’s a great store to showcase art and to tell the story of someone else who’s making stuff in this community.”
With the help of WPA, the show will change every quarter and the store will highlight a new artist.
According to Panis, the reception was planned with the continuing progress of Shinola in mind. “It’s vital for the business and the long-term success of the business that we integrate with the community and we build a community around these stores and let people know about the mission of Shinola,” he said. “We’re focused on creating world class manufacturing jobs here in the United States, and it’s not that that sets us apart from others but it’s a unique mission, and it’s a mission that we hope sets a standard here in the United States to bring manufacturing back on shore here in this country.”
As of September 17, Shinola had created just under 450 jobs.
Small bites were passed around for guests to munch on, including macaroni and cheese balls, quinoa-topped squash, scallops wrapped in bacon, spicy pork bellies, and chicken and waffle bites. A disc jockey spun toward the rear of the room and two open bars served wine, champagne, beers and a few select cocktails.
Dog Tag Bakery, an establishment that supports the education and success of disabled veterans, catered vanilla cream puffs and red velvet cupcakes to the satisfaction of each guest’s sweet tooth.
Halfway through the party, Shinola’s founder Tom Kartsotis delivered a short but elegant speech thanking guests for attending and supporting Shinola in its endeavors.
The company is opening five more locations inside the U.S. this year; Portland is first, and following it will be Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Paolo Alto. The plan is to open 15 additional stores next year, including more expansion overseas.
He disclosed that they are also looking forward to an extension of their merchandise, specifically the addition of audio products. According to Panis, they are creating devices to be used “in the ear, on the ear [and] over the ear.” He mentioned headphones, Bluetooth speakers and turntables as things to look out for from Shinola in the near future.
VIPs present at the reception included supermodel and Shinola Women’s Design Director Carolyn Murphy, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Gary Peters, Rep. Debbie Dingell, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Brenda Lawrence,Rep. Patrick Murphy, Chairman of the Obama Foundation Marty Nesbitt, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer, former Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission Jon Leibowitz, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis, Capitals players Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Braden Holtby and Mystics player Kia Vaughn.
Each attendee left the reception with a generous goody bag in hand containing a personal apple pie from Dog Tag and a Shinola leather-bound journal.