A standard room with a queen bed starts at $195.
At this year’s Oscar ceremony, the “Green Book” director, Peter Farrelly, gave a shout out to the luxury fashion brand Shinola, crediting it with “saving Detroit.” While his claim remains controversial, one fact is inarguable: With the opening of its first hotel in January, Shinola is bigger than ever in Motor City.
Located on Woodward Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Detroit, Shinola Hotel takes up most of a city block. It occupies five buildings, including two historic structures: the Singer Building, with its neoclassical exterior, and the T.B. Rayl & Co. store, a former sports and hardware business with a red-tiled facade. It also has a street-front restaurant, San Morello, and a retail outlet, with back entrances into the hotel.
The 129-room, eight-story boutique hotel is part of a multimillion-dollar development project by Shinola, founded by Tom Kartsotis of Fossil watches, and Dan Gilbert’s real estate venture, Bedrock, which has acquired and developed more than 100 properties in the city since 2011. The project, which took two years to complete, also includes an alley behind the hotel with shops and two restaurants: The Brakeman, an American beer hall with an outdoor area, and Penny Red’s, a fried chicken spot.
Check-in went smoothly for us as well as a cool couple with a canine. Shinola is a pet-friendly hotel.
Detroit’s downtown district is the most pedestrian-friendly area of the city, and a testament to the “revitalization” everyone touts following the bankruptcy. Not only can hotel guests stroll to all the major sports venues — Comerica Park, Ford Field and Little Caesars arena — it is also an Uber-free distance from the Fox Theatre, the Detroit Opera House, and even the Fisher Theatre, courtesy of the two-year old QLINE, a streetcar that runs up and down Woodward connecting the downtown to New Center, a commercial and residential district few miles away. (The “Q” stands for Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert’s mortgage company.) Also just steps from the hotel is the native Detroiter John Varvatos’s store.
Our sixth-floor room felt spacious with a comfortable leather chair adorned with a blanket and reading light, a king bed and a bar stocked with enough booze for a block party: bottles of gin, vodka, tequila and bourbon were laid out on top of a credenza hiding a fully stocked minibar underneath. The snacks and beverages include nods to local brands: Great Lakes Chips, Drought cold-pressed juice, Vernors Ginger Ale and Shinola Cola (who knew?). One serious highlight: a set of Bluetooth Shinola speakers we had to restrain ourselves from volume testing. Somewhat fascinating is a long price list of nearly everything in the room should we want to buy it or be charged if it went missing: the blanket ($295), the speakers ($1,500), the Runwell desk clock ($295) a dual-plug power cord ($145), and a key fob with a leather tassel I did not dare lose at $65. I was tempted to buy the black terry-cloth robes ($150 each) and take home the mysteriously unpriced striped cotton slippers. Our room overlooked the site of the former J.L. Hudson’s department store, where Mr. Gilbert is starting to build what is to be the tallest skyscraper in Detroit, a mixed-use tower. There was no construction noise on the weekend.
Nicely designed with an enormous shower that could easily fit two people. The bath amenities, labeled Rayl’s after the former tenant, were made for the hotel with Shinola’s “signature scent,” which was unrecognizable but fragrant.
With the San Morello restaurant booked that night, we enjoyed brunch in the bustling corner brasserie, sharing a delicious pizza with fennel sausage and pistachio pesto ($19). Had we known the “Living Room” off the lobby served food, we might have eaten there. The high-ceilinged room is decorated with colorful local art and filled with comfortable couches. The menu is simple (soups, salads, roast chicken), though the homemade Truffle Dog ($17) stood out, as did the cocktail menu featuring drinks like “Death in the Afternoon,” absinthe and Champagne ($24). After 5 p.m. it is open to the public, as is the “Evening Bar,” a windowless, cozy room with curved wood millwork and warm lighting. But it has seating for only 30 people, and takes no reservations, and we were not up for the hourlong wait at 11 p.m. Room service the next morning made up for any disappointment. Within 30 minutes of ordering, a huge plate of fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes ($14) arrived with the Sunday paper.