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This article is about a brand of shoe polish and now watches, bicycles, leather goods, and journals. For other meanings, see Shinola (disambiguation).
Logo for current Shinola brand.
A tin of Shinola.

Shinola, a Detroit-based company that produces watches, bicycles, leather goods, and journals, was founded by Bedrock Manufacturing, a venture capital firm based in Dallas, Texas. Bedrock Manufacturing acquired the name "Shinola" in 2011. Today, save for a few exceptions and technicalities, every Shinola product is made in the United States of America.[1][2][3] At the time of the company's founding in 2011, no American watchmaker had produced watches at scale since the late 1960s, with U.S.-based watchmaking relegated to select specialty companies.[4]

The decision to base the company in Detroit derived both from a desire to make watches in the United States and from a strategic decision to anchor operations in a unique city with an established and unshakable reputation as an industrial leader.[1][2] The city of Detroit also serves as differentiator in the marketplace.[2]

The management at Bedrock Manufacturing chose the name "Shinola" when the World War II era colloquialism, "You don't know shit from Shinola," surfaced in a conversation. Unexpectedly, the joke generated a serious discussion about restoring the Shinola brand.[2]

The company's headquarters and watch factory are housed within the College for Creative Studies (CCS) on the fifth floor of the Alfred A. Taubman Building in Detroit, a former automotive research lab. Shinola's occupation of the CCS space at first occurred by accident, when Bedrock officials, seeking a manufacturing site after resolving to rebuild Shinola, visited the College and the elevator unexpectedly opened on the fifth floor, which was vacant at the time. They decided to transform the 30,000 square feet of vacant space into their watch factory and company headquarters.[1][2] To build out the watch factory, the company partnered with Ronda, an independently-owned Swiss movement manufacturer. Ronda also brought in expert watchmaking veterans to train Shinola's watch assemblers, all of whom had no prior experience in watchmaking. Currently, the factory has the capacity to produce 500,000 watches a year.[5]

Most of the workers assembling watches are local Detroiters, and many of them come from the auto business.[6] Since the company's founding in 2011, it has grown to over 230 people.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

Shinola was immortalized in colloquial English by the phrase "You don't know shit from Shinola" which first became widely popular during World War II.[8]

In the 1979 film comedy The Jerk, the character Navin R. Johnson (played by Steve Martin) is tested by "Daddy" (Richard Ward) on whether he knows the difference between shit and Shinola before leaving home.

Ween released a 2005 compilation album titled, Shinola, Vol. 1 that plays on the colloquial phrase mentioned above.

Dolly Parton wrote the song "Shinola" - which also uses a lyric that plays on the colloqial phrase - for her 2008 Backwoods Barbie album.


  1. ^ a b c VanderMay, Ann (9 July 2013). "Think you know Shinola? Think Again.". CNN Money. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Muller, Joann (26 July 2013). "In Bankrupt Detroit, Shinola Puts Its Faith In American Manufacturing". Forbes. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Gomelsky, Victoria (1 June 2013). "Shinola Puts Motown Watches in Motion". JCK Magazine (Online). Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Hicks, Jesse (18 September 2013). "Shinola is Bringing Watchmaking to Detroit". The Verge. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Vanhemert, Kyle (7 November 2012). "How An Upstart Company In Detroit Is Building An American Heritage Brand". Fast Company. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Glor, Jeff (28 October 2013). "Watch company Shinola is investing big in Detroit". CBS News. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Haimerl, Amy (9 February 2014). "Canvas Watch Co. plans to dial in sales with timely design, Kickstarter boost". Crain's Detroit. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Doesn't know shit from Shinola

External links[edit]