“Can’t believe that you, of all people, buy into the Shinola hype.” That’s what a commenter wrote on my Instagram page yesterday. I think that’s a compliment. And while my opinion on Shinola is, I hope, reasonably hype-free, I also can’t say that I’m immune to the brand’s charms.
I stopped by their Ann Arbor store late last night. This is, it has to be said, a profoundly satisfying place. The ground floor is designed around a selection of natural materials and carefully spot-lit to cast a flattering glow on everything from their boxes of traditional wooden pencils (that I bought for my son) to the handsome Runwell, Bixby, and Detroit Arrow bicycles.
The basement, reached down a set of wrought-iron-and-rough-wood stairs, is an authentic marvel. Brick-lined, with a fourteen-foot ceiling and that same careful accent lightning. A gloss-red bicycle sits between small, private alcoves for conversation. There’s a bar, tended during my visit by a painfully earnest and ruggedly handsome beard-and-suspenders fellow who cleaned glasses with the precise amount of vintage, authentic effort displayed by the android bartender in Passengers, where you can buy soda and baked goods. Beneath another soft spotlight, there’s a pair of bookshelf speakers and a selection of usual-suspect records (What’s Going On, Rubber Soul, Physical Graffiti, that sort of thing) for you to play on their stunning new Shinola (by VPI) turntable. A great place to write a novel, meet your future wife, or just relax with a made-in-Detroit Shinola soda. At only $1.00, the twelve-ounce glass-bottled cola is probably the only genuine deal the brand offers.