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Shinola Takes a Shine To Kansas City

Shinola taps into the talent of American artisans and craftspeople with the right kind of quality.

In today’s global marketplace, the “Made In America” designation doesn’t carry as much weight as it once did. Yet, companies like Shinola are tapping into the talent of American artisans and craftspeople to show not just the country, but also the world, what it means to be American-made.

Reinvigorating a Storied Brand

You might recognize the Shinola name from the company’s former iteration, a Rochester, N.Y.-based company that, from 1907 to 1960, was widely known for its shoe polish (not to mention the age-old adage.) In 2011, Tom Kartsotis—the brainchild behind Fossil—bought the rights to the name and established a new Detroit-based business focused on, among other products, watches.

Priced from $500 to $900, Shinola’s watches aren’t just the centerpiece of the company’s carefully crafted and curated collection. They also represent a quality-made product that’s available at a more accessible price point than typical European luxury watches, introducing a new demographic to the power and allure of timeless timepieces.

Shinola also channels the talents of a team of craftspeople to create journals, leather goods and bicycles billed by Shinola as “the latest luxury vehicle from Detroit.” The artisans are based around the country, including Eric Scott of Ste. Genevieve, Mo., one of America’s premier leather goods manufacturers. Oh, and by the way? You can still buy Shinola shoe polish from the company too.

Kansas City, Here We Come

Local jewelry store Tivol is known for its covetable selection of precious gems and jewelry. And during an annual Las Vegas market trip, the Tivol team discovered a jewel that seemed destined for Kansas City: Shinola.

“We saw the Shinola watches and really fell in love with them,” says Adam Gebhardt, director of marketing at Tivol. “We were considering bringing them to our own stores, and that’s when we discovered the brand as a whole. It was at that point that the company’s story proved so compelling we wanted to bring the entire store to KC.”

A whirlwind of discussions, negotiations and site selection ensued. The Tivol team played a key role in recommending a store site, among other duties. After evaluating possible locations in downtown’s Crossroads Arts District and in Johnson County, the Plaza “emerged as the logical option,” Gebhardt says.

The deal became official in mid-August, leaving less than a month before the store’s scheduled opening just before the annual Plaza Art Fair. The store (the third in the country) was designed as a pop-up shop and is slated to remain open through the holidays, a tenure that may be extended depending on sales and other factors.

For Gebhardt and everyone at Tivol, Shinola represents more than quality-made products; it also embodies a culture and an emotion that couldn’t come at a better time for Shinola’s home city.

“They’re bringing a sense of pride back to American manufacturing,” he says. “This story also comes at a wonderful time in terms of where Detroit is with the bankruptcy. They feel passionately about having American-made goods and returning that sense of pride to the American manufacturer.”

Couple that with consumers who are more actively seeking locally made goods, and you’ve got an ideal match.

Although the Shinola watches have become a strategic addition to Tivol’s product line, the effort to bring Shinola to Kansas City reflects a long-running Tivol priority.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve brought a designer name to Kansas City,” Gebhardt explains. “Harold Tivol [son of Tivol founder, Charles] was renowned for finding young talent, nurturing it and bringing them to Kansas City to help establish them.”

Current generations carrying on a decades-old tradition of excellence and forging a partnership to pave the way for additional success—that’s the true embodiment of the American dream.

Story by Katy Shamberger