Shinola’s foray into hospitality aims to help revitalize Detroit

DETROIT—Slated to open next month in downtown Detroit, the Shinola Hotel is being billed as a first-of-its kind hospitality project. And, certainly, the hotel has coincided with a number of firsts: Its operator, Mac&Lo, a household name in the New York City boutique hotel market, picked up roots for The Motor City to take on the project; its developer, locally based real estate firm Bedrock, recently brought on its first ever VP of hospitality, Andrew Leber; and, of course, it marks luxury lifestyle brand Shinola’s debut in the hospitality market.

Mac&Lo’s husband and wife team Sergio Maclean and Audrey Laurent were looking to expand their expertise beyond New York City. “We absolutely fell in love with Detroit because it has such great energy,” Maclean said. “The whole movement of the revitalization is so dominant in the city.”

“It has great history, architecture. All of that combined really resonated with us,” Laurent added. “It really lends itself to the boutique hotel segmentation.”

Once the duo determined the Shinola Hotel was the right project for them—citing cultural fit with both the Shinola brand and Bedrock—a move to the city was necessary. “If we’re going to do this in Detroit, we need to do it as insiders,” Maclean said. “We cannot be effective at what we want to accomplish doing it remote from New York.”

This would be true of any project, but especially so for the Shinola Hotel. A labor of love for the city it calls home, both Shinola—which produces watches, bicycles and leather goods, among other items—and Bedrock are committed to making the hotel a part of the fabric of the local community.

Bedrock’s Leber noted that the founders of both companies have a shared vision for Detroit and this was a “natural extension of Shinola’s brands in bespoke residential.” He said that the retail strategy includes spaces that will be operated by local, mostly female-operated businesses, which offer goods that “will not only be of great use to travelers, but are proactive about reengaging with the city block in terms of driving pedestrians to space that had long been abandoned.”

“We are committed to recruiting individuals from the city and training them,” Maclean said, pointing out that it’s an extension of Shinola’s ethos (the company manufactures in Detroit).

“We’re using local vendors, manufacturers, mill shops and artists to incorporate their products into the hotel,” he added. “We could put in elements from anywhere, but we’re looking locally first. We want guests to feel they’re inside the city.”

In keeping with this, furniture, wallcoverings and accessories are custom-designed and primarily manufactured in the U.S.—much of it in Michigan—by partners including Pewabic, known for its covetable ceramics; Booms Stone Company, responsible for the stone finishes in the guestrooms; and Great Lakes Stainless, whose decorative metals can be found throughout the hotel’s public spaces.

Additionally, minibars will offer local items as well: Great Lakes Chips, Shinola Cola, Vernors Ginger Ale, and local craft beers, to name a few.

Of course, there will be a Shinola retail store as well. But Laurent and Maclean noted the Shinola brand will be translated into hospitality in understated and intelligent ways. For instance, Waterworks partnered with Shinola on custom bathroom fixtures that take cues from caseback details of Shinola’s luxury watches, while blankets woven in the U.S. carry a signature Shinola Hotel stripe pattern.

“It’s a number of very subtle and sometimes not so subtle elements,” Maclean said. “It’s a casual, friendly, open, analog, comfortable, very sensory-based hotel. When you go to a Shinola store, you can touch every watch, every band. There’s no screens, no iPads, no posters of their products—it’s all there. That is part of Shinola. Ultimately, the biggest luxury you have is the simplest: It’s touch—leather, woods, beautiful furniture. We want you to feel you’re not at home, but at the Shinola Hotel. You’re with us and experiencing life the way we’re experiencing life.”

Gachot Studios—which was responsible for the Shinola flagship stores in both New York and Los Angeles—and Kraemer Design Group were tapped for the design. The hotel project comprises two restored buildings—the onetime T.B. Rayl & Co. department store and a former Singer sewing-machine store—as well as three new annexes designed to breathe new life into the block.

Private clubs in London were a major inspiration for the hotel’s design, which includes a color palette of caramel, camel and gray, along with soft blush, deep greens and rich wood tones. Other design elements include in-room materials like oil-rubbed bronze, soft leather, plush mohair and American white oak; and cream hallway walls with accents of Shinola blue, a signature color developed by Gachot. A lone paint chip unearthed in the Singer building inspired the hue.

“Someone was asking me how I describe the hotel: We want it to feel like you’re going to your best and oldest friend’s house and you’re welcome at any point, day or night,” Leber said. “It’s an elevated experience that will touch all your senses.”

Laurent noted the Shinola Hotel is more than just design that reflects the brand. “It’s really extending the culture that exists in Shinola retail and translating that into hospitality,” she said. “ The culture we come from, New York high-end boutique hotels, Shinola translates that type of service into their stores already. Marrying the two is not that far-fetched. That’s how we’re embedding the culture of the Shinola brand into the hotel.”

The 129-room hotel will offer residential-style units and 16,000 sq. ft. of retail and F&B space, including a lobby restaurant, mezzanine lounge, conservatory and event space. The hotel’s F&B programming will be provided by chef Andrew Carmellini of NoHo Hospitality Group: San Morello, an urban Italian neighborhood restaurant influenced by the coastal towns of Southern Italy; Evening Bar, a comfortable, classic American bar; The Brakeman, an American beer hall; the Living Room; in-room dining; and banquet/event spaces.

NoHo Hospitality has a Detroit connection as well: One of its founders,  Josh Pickard, grew up in the city. “Having them be a part of curating the F&B outlets will create an incredible experience,” Leber said. “NoHo Hospitality is a force to be reckoned with.”

Looking toward the future—and the possibility of more Shinola hotels—Leber said, “We’re really excited for the demand and interest levels Shinola is going to bring. When they see it, they’ll understand there’s a unique product here that needs to be in other cities. Shinola has brick-and-mortar stores globally, and these are great lodging markets as well—and many of the ones you would expect a hotel to be in.” HB

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