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Time For Detroit

Jacques Panis shares his passion for the city

Page 18-19

By building the story of Shinola, Jacques Panis is also building the story of Detroit.

By building the story of Shinola, Jacques Panis is also building the story of Detroit.

Few businesses have influenced the transformation in Detroit quite like Shinola. Its American-made products like watches and bikes have challenged the national narrative about the city like few others. It’s forcing people to reconsider what’s possible. The Detroiter recently caught up with Shinola President Jacques Panis. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Panis on Detroit, disagreeables and disruption.

I think people definitely scratched their head, and probably still do scratch their head at some level. Someone told us one day, that we ‘don’t know sh*t from Shinola’ and that was one of the catalysts that led us down the path to our name.

It’s more about doing something completely unconventional. Watchmaking hasn’t been done in this country in 40 years. To break through the fray, you have to do something that at some level is disruptive. But then, to do that, you have to do it where you can build something that’s quality and that has a story behind it and is aesthetically pleasing.

The people and the manufacturing – that’s in the DNA. Quality products have come out of (Detroit) and the region and state for a hundred-plus years.Shinola Watch

We saw this huge opportunity. We saw people who wanted to make a change and we wanted to be part of that change and transition. I tell people all the time, we are a very small part of it.

Look at that video Apple did on Jason (Hall) with Slow Roll. He’s got 4,000 random people participating in the Slow Role riding bicycles around the city. That was all built from one dude who wanted to make a change. You take things like that, you take things like what Phil Cooley has done in Ponyride, and what Jason Huvaere has done with the Movement Festival … Look at the Thanksgiving Day Parade that Tony Michaels (essentially) brought back to life, and turned into something very meaningful for the city.

It’s an amazing story. There’s cranes, there’s bulldozers, there’s big dump trucks. Woodward is shut down because there is an amazing new rail system going in … There are apartments being built. You can’t find an apartment because so many people want to live downtown. The momentum in this city is incredible.

If I was a kid with $25 in my pocket just coming out of college, I’d go to Detroit because you can make change. You can work with everyone. No one is going to shut the door in your face. You’re at least going to get the meeting, and you’ll probably get two (meetings), and if you have a little nugget, you’ll probably get three or four (meetings) and you’re going to find a way to make your vision come to life.

The naysayers are realizing it’s time to jump on the bus or you’re going to be left at the station.