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February 12, 2016


Lifelong Detroiter and Leather Artisan Valisa McTaw Tells it Like it is

Valisa McTaw, Katie O., and Tony David (L to R). Photograph by Christian Witkin

February 12, 2016

If Valisa McTaw could pick any other first name for herself, it would be Love, which suits her quite well. This mother of four is well-known for her silly personality, and constant smile inside the leather factory where she is an Artisan. "My kids think I’m a super hero. I’m a single mother of four and I love my children to death — they drive me to provide a better future for them," she says. Read more about Valisa's story below.

As a lifelong Detroiter what sort of changes have you noticed?

I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life and I’ve noticed a lot of growth and attention, positive attention for change as far as Detroit goes. Many different businesses are popping up in the city and a lot of independent people are getting the chance to promote their business here. When you have Detroit behind your company, I think it spreads a message of power.

To be in Detroit is a powerful thing. The hustle and bustle of our city is real, we fight hard to have to win and do everything, and I like that when people hear Detroit they understand the strength behind that name.

What are your favorite places in the city?

I’m a nerd so I love the bookstores downtown. John K. King Used & Rare Bookstore on Woodward Avenue is my favorite, it’s a used bookstore and it’s really awesome. The Michigan Science Center is a great place to take the kids, and so is Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the DIA. We’ve got some great stuff to do. 

Sewing watchstrap edges inside the Leather Factory.

What would you want someone who’s never heard of Shinola to know about the company?

I work very hard to create these, what I like to call masterpieces, known as our watches. I look to improve techniques so the durability and look of it will withstand the years of time, so when you look at it years from now it still looks like a classic piece. I like the fact that I put my blood sweat and tears into the watch you’re potentially purchasing.

The final parts needed for our leather watchstraps.

What did you do before coming to work for Shinola?

I worked midnights as a supervisor on a very small team and I sorted foam for GM seating. I had to drive to Rochester, so it’s nice to get home faster now. I’m able to get into activities with my kids after school as opposed to having to truck through 45 minutes of traffic. I get to help with homework and cook for them without being half asleep. 

This interview is part of a new series called JOBS that highlights the people that make Shinola tick. Find their stories right here on The Journal or on our Jobs page

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