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March 16, 2016

Craftspeople
Leather

The Team Player: Tarez Franklin, Line Leader at the Leather Factory

Tarez Franklin (pictured). Photograph by Christian Witkin
Craftspeople
Leather

March 16, 2016

Tarez Franklin was born and raised in Detroit and now raises his two kids here in the city. He played college football at Alabama State University and moved back to Detroit to finish his college career at Wayne State University where he graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts for Broadcast Journalism. "I had dreams of playing football at the next level and that didn’t work out, but I love Shinola and since I’ve been in the workforce this is easily the best job I’ve ever had," he says. "Before this I was in an automotive factory. I’ve worked at three different automotive companies all of which I worked as either a line leader or a production supervisor — I worked my way up."

Today Tarez works in our Leather Factory as a line leader, and he's one of the many faces behind Shinola’s leather production team inside our 12,000-square-foot leather factory. Watch the video and read more about his story below.

Video courtesy of Vice.

How old are you and how did you become interested in working for Shinola? 

Im 26 years old. Crazy story about Shinola is I honestly didn’t remember applying. I was kind of just going on a job hunt frenzy and filling out a lot of applications and one day a lady called me and asked if I would be interested in working for a watch and leather factory, I said, 'I’m used to automotive production, but I would be willing to come in and see what you are talking about.' I was looking for more stability for me and my family.

I came in and did the test and interviewed for a leather position. I liked the whole feeling of the company as soon as I walked in and I ran with it. When I got the call I was really excited.

So you moved up into the position you're in now?

Absolutely, I moved up. I started as a leather artisan and when they put up the line lead job my supervisor didn’t even know I was going to apply for the job. She saw the names on her list and when she saw me, she was kind of surprised. Then she looked at my resumé. 

Why was she surprised?

I’m a silly guy, and everyone doesn’t know my background that I’m a college graduate, things of that nature. There’s a lot of stuff that when you look at me and talk to me, many people don’t initially know these things about me. But I did good on my interview, I tested well, and I got the position. 

A big thing about working up in the leather factory is attitude. Our head boss Jen Guarino is big on attitude and she’ll tell you that we can always work to improve performance, but if you have a negative attitude then it’s not going to work. It helps the work environment to have a positive feeling across the factory. Every day people aren’t going to come in and be positive, everyone might not always be chipper, but we work on it and that’s one of the things we pride ourselves on in the leather factory.

What sort of things might people not initially realize about you?

I graduated from Wayne State University, I graduated high school right down the street at University Prep Academy high school, and then I went down to Alabama State University. I played football for two years and then I came back home and played football at Wayne State University.

What position did you play in football?

I played receiver. At Alabama I had half an academic scholarship and half an athletic scholarship.

Watch straps on the assembly line in the leather factory.

Are you originally from Detroit?

I grew up on the West side of Detroit. It was fun. I have a typical inner-city story, I played sports, excelled academically and athletically at school. I had fun and it was a good place to grow up. I do have some of the horror stories too, but I have a lot more of the good stories. Detroit is one of those places where you’re going to have stories on both ends — bad stories, good stories.

Can you share one of your favorite memories of growing up here?

My favorite memories are playing for Pop Warner football. It's one of the traveling little leagues here in Detroit. Being young and playing football, and getting to travel all over the country was really fun. My last year playing we traveled to Kansas City, Missouri and we played up at Eastern Michigan University. All of this happened when I was 11 and 12 years old, so it was crazy playing in a college stadium that young. We actually went out to the championship and played in Florida at the national championship, so I really cherish the moments I had playing football as a kid.

Inside the leather factory.

Who is someone you look up to?

My mom, she’s my rock. I talk to her every single day. I have two daughters and my mom taught me how to love my kids. The way she raised me made it easy to raise my kids because she showed me how to do so much. My mom’s great, I love that lady. She works at St. John hospital as a nurse, a BSN RN, and she just graduated in January of this year. The crazy thing with my mom is she’s so strong and persistent that this is the third time I’ve seen her graduate. I was with her when she graduated high school, then she got her bachelor in accounting, and most recently when she got her bachelor in science for nursing.

She worked for GM for a longtime in their accounting department and she just felt like there was no where else to go and she’d stayed in one position for too long. She woke up one day and told me, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ I told her if she needed anything she could always come stay with me, so she ended up staying with me for two years while she finished school and now she’s graduated.

The relationship my kids have with their grandma is just crazy. I love it and I feel lucky they have such a close bond. My two girls are Tori, who is nine, and Toni is four.

Where are your favorite spots in the city and what do you do outside of work?   

I’ve been trying to go to the smaller restaurants that have been opening up around the city. One great place I’ve been going to a lot lately is Pasta Bowl right on 6 Mile off the Southfield Freeway, they call themselves the Little Italy of Detroit. Another place is Spud Headz, they do all different types of stuffed potatoes and they are about three blocks away from Pasta Bowl right in the same neighborhood. Mighty Sub Shop is really good, and Hot Toppings Burgers will put anything you can think of on a burger.

I love taking my kids out, and they love coming to the gym with me. We go to the movies and always go down to the Fox Theater whenever they have something going on like Sesame Street Live.

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

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