Detroit-Based Company Looks To Resurrect American Manufacturing

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Detroit-based watch and luxury goods company, capitalizing on its working-class heritage, is attracting interest because of its drive to resurrect American manufacturing.

The “Built in Detroit” brand, Shinola, revived an old trademark and the company president, Jacques Panis, visited Center City to talk about its vision for job creation.

Their Detroit watch factory plant is in the former GM Building in which the Corvette was designed.

While the watch parts come from a Swiss based manufacturer (Ronda AG), it takes 34 Detroiters to assemble one watch. Among them, Panis says, is Willie, the former security guard in the building.

“Today, Willie leads a team of 40 people in the watch manufacturing operation,” Panis said.

Then, there was Crystal, the former night-time janitor.

“And today, Crystal leads our quality control division of about 14 people,” said Panis.

Not only are Shinola watches catching the fancy of Millennials, former Presidents Clinton and Obama favor them.

Shinola employs nearly 650 people, including 350 in Detroit.

The company took its name from the former shoe polish company that was a trusted brand in the early 1900’s.

Shinola also has a leather goods and accessories division in Detroit, as well as an audio division that produces high-end turntables, each of which weigh 48 pounds.

“It’s even won ‘product of the year’ in Audiophile World,” explained Panis.

He says they pair them with world-class Shinola headphones, and head-turning power cords.

Shinola also carries bicycles made by a partner in Wisconsin. And, yes, it carries shoe polish, from a family-owned company in Chicago.

Shinola now has 23 retail stores. Panis says the flagship Shinola store in Detroit speaks volumes about how customers feel.

“We budgeted it to do $180,000 in its first six months of operation, it ended up doing $3 million,” he said.

It recently opened a store in the King of Prussia Mall.

It’s also opening up a Shinola Hotel in Detroit, next year.

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