Detroit’s Newest Boutique Hotel Hearkens Back to Its Oldest Values

How Tom Lewand and the Shinola Hotel Established Detroit’s Living Room

Tom Lewand has had a diverse career, much of it inspired and influenced by his life as a Detroit native. The prevailing sentiment for renewal in the Motor City was long one of “out with the old, in with the new.” Lewand and the historic Shinola Corporation, however, chose a very different path when it came to the repurposing of two Detroit landmark buildings. Instead of tearing down T.B. Rayl & Co. Sporting Goods and the Singer Sewing Machine store, Lewand oversaw the total restoration of both in a style that fits the Detroit landscape – perhaps better than either building did in its heyday. Learn his thoughts on the restoration and where Detroit – and the boutique industry – is headed in our exclusive interview.

SB: What is your career background and how did you enter the Hospitality Industry?

TL: I joined Shinola as CEO in 2016, but prior to that I was President of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. I’m a Detroit-area native and have been active in the community for some time, acting as Past Chairman of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. I currently serve on the Boards of Directors for the Detroit Zoological Society, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Parade Company. I’m also on the Corporate Advisory Board for the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Detroit Mayor’s Workforce Development Board.

A huge part of our brand ethos is our commitment to delivering an extraordinary retail experience while creating beautifully crafted, high-quality products. Expanding into the hospitality industry feels like a natural extension for us. We want to provide tourists, business travelers, and locals with the kind of world-class experience that we take pride in providing our retail customers.

SB: Can you discuss the history of the buildings that make up The Shinola Hotel?

TL: The property marries two restored buildings—the old T.B. Rayl & Co. sporting goods and hardware store and a former Singer sewing-machine store—with three brand new buildings modeled after downtown Detroit’s historic architecture.

SB: Why do you believe more and more hotels are being developed in Detroit?

TL: The city is truly a destination with a bustling food and arts scene. More businesses are coming to Detroit, and there’s so much more to see and experience year after year. Our hotel, for example, is only a short walk away from Ford Field, Comerica Park, and Little Caesars Arena.

SB: Who are your partners and why did you choose them?

TL: Visitors of the Shinola Hotel deserve nothing less than a great experience, and we’ve teamed up with the best of the best to make that happen: Bedrock Manufacturing, Gachot Studios, Mac&Lo and NoHo Hospitality. In addition to those key players, every vendor was thoughtfully-curated to deliver standout details—from the amenities and linens, to the wallpaper and dishware. We’ve chosen these partners as they align with the Shinola brand’s high standards of quality.

SB: How are you making your Boutique Hotel a “living room” for Detroit?

TL: Shinola is a brand that was built by the city and people of Detroit, and that’s what sets us apart from other brands opening hotels in the city. Detroit is our home, and every aspect of the hotel was pieced together with our hometown in mind. We took a residential approach to the interiors—creating Detroit’s “living room”—a beautiful, inviting, and comfortable space that guests and locals can enjoy visiting.

SB: Why do you believe in The Boutique Movement, the shift of businesses going “Boutique,” and how does The Shinola Hotel provide a Boutique Experience?

TL: I think the “boutique” approach leaves a mark on the consumer. There’s just something about a top-notch, detailed experience that makes people want to come back for more. The Shinola Hotel is not just a space, it’s a place people go to feel inspired and welcome.

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Image Rights to Shinola and Nicole Franzen