In 2011, Tom Kartsotis turned heads when he acquired the defunct shoeshine brand Shinola as the name for his new luxury watch brand — a swanky timepiece that would be manufactured in economically depressed Detroit, no less. In 2018, Shinola and Kartsotis turned heads again, this time unveiling the first Shinola Hotel.
Set at the epicenter of revitalized downtown Detroit, a short walk from Comerica Park, Ford Field and the Fox Theatre, the Shinola Hotel (shinolahotel.com) opened its doors in mid-December. The eight-story, 129-room hotel occupies five conjoined 100-year-old buildings, resulting in an irregular footprint and guestrooms of varied configurations. Some of the hotel’s rooms feature sunken living rooms, while others have elevated bedrooms. Some rooms include private balconies, while others have skylights or fireplaces.
But while Shinola’s guestrooms vary in their layout, all pay homage to Detroit’s finest craftsmanship: richly polished hardwood floors and artworks created by locals, marbleized wallpaper inspired by an original fragment and minibars stocked with Detroit-made products.
Shinola showcases its lifestyle products, as well, furnishing all of its rooms with the company’s signature Bluetooth sound systems and its suites with Shinola turntables. Shinola bicycles are available for rent, and not surprisingly, a new retail shop sells watches and leather goods on the hotel’s ground floor.
“When people walk through our doors, we want them to recognize right away that they’re in Detroit,” said Sergio Maclean, principal of Mac&Lo, a Detroit-based hospitality development team. “The locally made furniture and art, the quality of craft. This is what Detroit is all about.”
The Shinola Hotel follows the pattern of many recent Detroit developments, carving 21st-century boutique hotel space out of abandoned and underutilized 20th-century real estate. The trend infuses new energy into the city and, according to Mark Denson, senior director of business development for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, enhances the travel experience.
“Boutique hotels add cachet to a city,” Denson said, “and the Shinola Hotel is a good example of that.” Reviving architectural treasures preserves the history and legacy of a city. Restoration serves as a point of pride for locals, and when the revitalization is crafted by a brand with the prestige of Shinola, travelers take note.
“Hotels like the Shinola help visitors re-engage with Detroit, its past and its present,” Denson said. “They promise a stay unlike any other in the world. And they’re a mark of the turnaround of this great city.”