Shinola rolled into Los Angeles in a big way on Thursday, and retailer Ron Herman met the reinvigorated made-in-America label with open arms.
The Detroit-based brand, which earlier generations may remember for a shoe polish (its current owners bought the rights to the long-mothballed brand) is now being used on a range of heritage-inspired, domestically made items including bicycles, small leather goods and wristwatches.
While some pieces from the collection were on display in the tented parking lot of the Fred Segal Center, where live music, hot food and cool kids marked a local stop on Shinola's country-roaming bike tour, the full range of merchandise could be found on the second floor of Herman's eponymous Melrose Avenue boutique, showcased against the backdrop of a framed American flag and a sign with the slogan: "Shinola Detroit Where American is Made."
"Although we're going to be in Nordstrom, Neiman's, Saks and Bloomingdale's as of September and [we'll be] continuing at Barneys, this is the only place on the West Coast where you'll be able to see the full array of Shinola products," Shinola's marketing director Bridget Russo told us Thursday. Russo noted that smaller assortments of merchandise will also be sold through other boutiques nationwide (including Mohawk General Store at 4011 W. Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles).
We tracked down Ron Herman, the man behind the brand, to find out why he decided to dedicate such a serious chunk of floor space to Shinola's assortment of timepieces, leather satchels, journals -- not to mention bicycles; his enthusiastic response was a single word.
"Tom. Just print that," Herman told us, "Tom."
He was referring to Tom Kartsotis, founder of the Fossil watch brand whose second act includes involvement in a stable of American brands including Shinola, Filson and Original Jams (which is set for a 2014 relaunch of its own).
"I remember when Tom first came to me something like 28 years ago with this little bag of watches, that was the beginning of Fossil." Herman said. "And I just loved it."
"So when he called me up and told me about Shinola, I was like, 'Absolutely'."
Ron Herman at the Fred Segal Center, 8100 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.