Better Than The North Pole: A Holiday Shopping Appointment At Shinola

BY Taylor Rebhan

There are skylights and large windows that make the 100-year-old building light and airy. A café brewing coffee and tea and serving locally sourced treats gives the store a sweet aroma. And even at noon on an average Monday in November, the store is filled—locals work on laptops in the café, a group of tourists in the checkout line wait to purchase new timepieces, and people wander and browse the latest Shinola collections.

After grabbing a tea from the café, I meet up with Meredith M., keyholder at the Shinola Detroit store. As keyholder, Meredith is responsible for opening and closing the store while managing and running the floor as the sales leader. Today, she’s my Shinola holiday shopping guide.


Holiday shopping is always stressful for me. I want to give meaningful, quality gifts, but I’m never sure where to start. So I’m here for Meredith’s shopping advice, and after two and half years of working at the Shinola Detroit store, she certainly knows how to help.

Her first piece of advice?

“Make it a whole-day experience.” Find a good breakfast or lunch place, then come to the store to shop, and go Downtown for a nice dinner. Shopping in the store might take a little longer than expected, she warns, and at first, I don’t understand how that’s going to make my holiday shopping any easier. But as Meredith shows me around the store, I start to get the picture.

She asks me who I’m shopping for, so we start with my mom. I tell her she’s simple, classic and—of course—only deserves the best (remember, Mom—this is why I’m the favorite daughter).

Meredith recommends the Small Signet Rotating Pendant because it’s clean, classic and engravable. She also adds that necklaces make great gifts because you don’t need to know her size, like you would if you were buying a ring. Choosing gold jewelry can also make a gift extra special for the holidays. She lets me try it on to get a sense of scale, so I put down my tea and clasp the 14k gold necklace around my neck.


“I always encourage people to try things on—jewelry, watches, even the belts,” Meredith says. “It’s hard to tell online the sizing and how it’ll look on you. When you come into the store, you’re able to try things on, touch the leather, feel how soft it is, or get a sense of how a certain strap will look with your skin tone.” Meredith then points to a mannequin with the Shinola Hotel Alpaca Throw Blanket wrapped around it like a shawl. “You can see things displayed differently, too. You thought it was just a blanket. But it also makes the perfect shawl.” And just when I thought the alpaca blanket couldn’t get any better…

Now that I have the necklace on, I don’t want to take it off. Meredith tells me that’s a pretty common experience when people try things on in the store. Even when a guest tries on a watch, she encourages them to look in the mirror so that they see not only the watch but also how it looks on them. And if they fall in love—which, fair warning, is likely to happen—she’ll even suggest they wear their new purchase out of the store. Trust me, the idea was tempting.


But enough about my own wish list. Back to Mom.

To make her gift even more special, Meredith suggests I get the necklace engraved, which can be done in the Detroit Canfield store and other select stores. “Engraving is a great way to make it personal,” Meredith says. “And moms and wives usually love the more sentimental gifts.” She tells me about a woman who got this same necklace engraved for her mother. She put her initials on one side and her mother’s initials on the other.

“It’s great to come into the store because you can bounce ideas off the sales associates,” Meredith says. “You also get more flexibility. If you have a creative idea and you’re not sure if that’s something we do, just ask. We’ll do our best to work with you and make it happen.”

Engraving is just one of the many services the Shinola stores offer. Bracelet sizing, gift wrapping and monogramming can also make a gift perfectly personal. While engraving takes a few days to complete, Meredith monograms a planner right then and there for me.


She shows me the size and color options—silver, gold, rose gold and black—and she holds the purple planner up to the colors so I could see which would be the best choice. We decide on rose gold for a feminine look.


Now that my mom is taken care of, it’s time to move onto the men’s gifts. We start with the boyfriend.

“If it’s your husband, go for a watch,” Meredith says. “But for a boyfriend, go for a leather good, like a wallet or a belt. Those can be monogrammed, too.”

She asks me a little bit about my boyfriend. He’s a young computer engineer, into electronics I don’t understand and tough to shop for.

Unfazed, she quickly suggests the Tech Portfolio. I look at the different kinds of leathers it comes in. She opens it up and shows me all the compartments so that I can see just how much it holds. “It’s perfect for a techy guy.”


That was almost too easy, but now it’s time for the really tricky one: Dad.

Meredith suggests a personal and customer favorite—the Canfield Sport. While I agree, it’s a stunning timepiece, I don’t think it’s my dad’s style. So she takes me to the Willard Watch Bar, Shinola’s custom watch program. An array of cases and a spread of straps in different colors and materials (leather, bracelets, rubber or cloth) line the wall. Like the best kind of buffet, customers can pick and choose what they like.


“A watch is a great way for a man to accessorize,” Meredith says. She always tells her guests that a watch is something they’ll probably wear every day, so it’s important to choose something that’s just right for them.


Meredith says a lot of people come into the store shopping for dads. “Sometimes a whole family will come in and pick something out for their dad,” she says. “It’s really cool to see because the watch a son is helping pick out for his dad today might someday be passed down to him.”

Like I said, this isn’t your average store.

From special occasion visits to coworkers who act more like family, Shinola fosters a warm and welcoming environment both for its guests and its team.

“I love everyone who works here,” Meredith says. “We talk about it in the store, about how we’re like one big family, and it just feels like we’re meant to be together here at Shinola.”

And the holiday season adds even more charm to the mix. From holiday treats for kids and seasonal drinks at the café to festive decorations and live evergreens that make the store smell like the outdoors, I now see why Meredith suggested making it an all-day experience.

“This will be my third holiday season working at Shinola. It’s so busy, and I love that,” Meredith says. “Everyone is excited to pick out gifts, and we get to be a part of that.”

When it seems like the world is rushing to survive the holiday chaos, it’s nice to come in, slow down, and take the time to do gifting right.


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