It's almost as if the watch maker in Detroit could not resist the obvious when he set up shop in Detroit. Why not go for the punch line when naming your company? I say that because it appears that national writers checking in on the Motor City are obsessed with the fact that a small company is making a few thousand watches there. The latest to run down this rabbit hole is Joe Nocera in the New York Times. He wrote an op-ed piece that the Times published on June 2, 2015. The thesis of Nocera's article seems to be that Detroit is coming back to life. Why? Because Shinola has less than 400 employees making fewer than 200,000 watches a year in Detroit. And it's not just the New York Times. The National Geographic magazine ran an article about Detroit in their May, 2015 edition. As with the Times, National Geographic is besides itself in wonder at the comeback for the Motor City. This time it is because a few hardy souls have started a few micro-businesses here and there. Stories like this are filled with condescension. It's like hearing the effusive praise an adult gives a small child for having dressed himself. These stories are also insulting to the people of Detroit. By supposedly praising the "can-do" spirit of the few people still there, these writers just wish away the crippling decline of the City. Sure, the whole place is a vast, ruined wasteland. But, how about them watches? Is it possible that people like Nocera literally cannot tell shit from Shinola? How degrading for a City that was the arsenal of democracy, one of the wealthiest and most beautiful places in America. How smug for a few out of towners to pat the people there on the head and say, we really like what you have done with the place. Forget the 80% of the population who fled. Ignore the tens of thousands of acres of abandoned land covered with burned-out structures, like some sort necrotic pox. I think this is how the dying must feel when silly relatives and friends keep telling them how good they look. Trust me, those doctors don't know a thing: you are going to beat this. Mark my words.
If there is way back for Detroit, which is doubtful, it has to begin with an honest assessment of how bad it really is there. No company in the world can sell enough watches to change the fate of the place. So, if you want to help, stow your blithe, condescending praise and offer some real solutions.
National Geographic Article on Detroit