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January 22, 2019

Detroit: The Real City Of Love

January 22, 2019

From timepieces to leather goods to jewelry and beyond, our craft is designed to tell a story about a special time in your life—sent with love from a city with plenty of stories of its own.

To get a sense of the real city of love (Detroit), we interviewed a few of our team members about the special love in their lives and how Detroit played a significant role.


It Was Just The Right Time - Alicia L., HR Coordinator

“Everything with us has always been about timing,” said Alicia L.

Alicia and Wesley went to high school together, but never crossed paths. A Michigan football game—a game Alicia almost didn’t go to—brought them together nine years ago, and the two dated long distance throughout college for three years. After graduation, Alicia felt like things weren’t working, so they broke up.

The following spring, Wesley sent Alicia flowers on her birthday as a surprise

“I just really wanted you to smile on your birthday,” he told her. The flowers came with a short poem, starting a long tradition of Wesley sending Alicia hand-written notes.

“There’s something about a handwritten note that makes the message all the more special,” Alicia said. “When you’re with someone so much, it’s not every day that you stop to tell them, ‘hey, I appreciate your hard work, I love you so much.’”

The two didn’t get back together right away, and at that point, they were living on opposite sides of the world. But time had a way of running its course, and when Wesley came home from France, things started to align again.

“When the time was right,” Alicia said, “the universe brought us back together.”

The metro-Detroit natives never planned on getting married in Detroit, but the city had become the place where they explored Eastern Market, had dinner dates or went to Tigers games.

“It was fun to explore a city I had known for a long time and also experience it new with him. And getting married there just seemed like the perfect way to tie it all together.”

A city of so many milestones for the couple, Detroit was the natural choice for their wedding. The couple wrote their own vows, and for their first wedding anniversary, Wesley hand wrote the vows again in black ink on cream paper and framed them along with Alicia’s favorite wedding photo. It’s a gift she’ll always treasure.

“We just have this bond. It just freaking works,” she said. “And I think for us, it was just fate.”


Opposites Do Attract - Aaron D., Jewelry Services Manager

Aaron D. was a bundle of nerves when he spotted John at a birthday party on Bethune Street in Detroit nearly four years ago. Aaron, an artist, wasn’t really in the mood to mingle with the math teacher his friends wanted him to meet.

“I had just gone through a really bad breakup, but I was like, ‘sure, I'll meet this math nerd who is a high school teacher and see how it goes,’” joked Aaron.

To his surprise, the conversation went better than expected.

“I think the way he got me was he took out his astrology book and read it to me, and he danced with me on the first night. I thought, ‘OK, this is a nice guy,’” he said.

The pair ignited their love story with Detroit as their backdrop, going on their first date to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge on Livernois.

“I called ahead and got a table . . . but they told me men had to wear suits that night,” Aaron said. “So we went suit shopping and I got an ill-fitted suit, but whatever, it was a really special night with lots of whiskey and fried chicken.”

With a flourishing relationship, it was Aaron's love for John that made him gravitate back to Detroit after graduating from Cranbrook Academy of Art and working in Berlin. It’s a testament to the age-old saying, “opposites attract” and Aaron notes it’s that balance that keeps them going strong.

"The way he approaches life, it’s the exact opposite of mine. He’s very planned, very measured, he has a schedule every day. I like to do stuff on the fly,” Aaron said. “I’ve grown a lot, I’ve learned how to slow down, pause, not be emotionally responsive to everything in my life."

But with growth, there are always growing pains—and it happened to be the challenging times that, Aaron said, really made them realize they wanted to spend their lives together.

“I think love means unconditional love and hate for the same person and still wanting to be around them,” he said. “It’s your best friend, you can’t see your life without that person every day, there’s that seamless connection.”

With that in mind, Aaron got to work on John’s engagement ring. There are bands of yellow gold, white gold and silver bonded together with the engraving, “let’s imagine” inside.

“When John was teaching in Detroit, he would say, ‘hey, kids, let’s imagine . . . ’ So every conversation we would have, it would come up. It became our relationship mantra, it’s something very personal,” he said.

Aaron and John are planning to get married in the summer of 2020 at the Masonic Temple.

“It’s a historical capstone of Detroit, it’s wild,” said Aaron.


High School Sweethearts - Cora A., HR Administrative Assistant

Cora A. met Quintin the summer after eighth grade on Detroit’s east side. You could say it was love at first sight the minute she saw Quintin bust a move at her best friend’s house on Hull Street. The other guys didn’t stand a chance.

From hanging out at the Michigan State Fair to enjoying burgers at BB’s Diner on 7 Mile, the pair grew up together exploring the city.

"When I was growing up in Detroit, we used to have block parties. I loved the community aspect and everyone coming together—riding our bikes, splashing in the SwimMobile, running after the ice cream truck,” said Cora. “I also loved the history. Detroit is all I know.”

After graduation and through the years that followed, there were some obstacles, but time had a way of bringing them back together for the long haul.

“Obstacles are important in love because then you know it's real. Regardless of all of that, our love was strong enough to keep us together,” she said. “Through trial and tribulation, we see each other as the people we loved that first day. When you have that friendship, there’s still love there. God and love keep us together.”


A Mother’s Bond Knows No Distance - Grace C., Leather Artisan

Grace C. started her journey from the Congo to the United States three years ago. She left behind the beautiful tropical weather and the local food. And although she misses Casava—spinach leaves stuffed with vegetables, peanut butter and a load of spices—she misses her mother, Elisabeth, most.

“She means everything. She taught me how to be a woman and that there's no problem I cannot handle. She tells me to just believe in God, nothing is impossible to you and don’t forget how blessed you are,” said Grace.

After spending some time in Nashville, Tennessee, Grace put some roots down in Detroit—and started at Shinola.

“When I came, I was—in my mind—a little bit lost. I used to travel before, but when you just put your suitcase down to start a new life, you’re like, ‘where am I?’”

But then something caught her eye: the graffiti, the murals, the details of the city that made it unique.

“I liked the graffiti, it’s just amazing. I like it in Detroit, I like the message you can have from the design and style. It gives some hope—that mix of color, murals, you just have hope,” she said.

Hope for a better future—and a hope to stay connected to her mother more than 7,000 miles away.

“I talk to her every day I can, even when I’m busy,” Grace said. “We talk about family and all of the issues we can have sometimes. She gives me advice about life. When love is there, it cannot be stopped by distance.”


Love Beyond Borders - Cecilia A., Leather Manufacturing Supervisor

For five years, Cecilia A. has dealt with being separated from her husband. He was deported to Mexico in 2012 and it’s been a fight ever since to get him back to the United States.

“It's hard, but the communication I feel has grown a lot more, the way we express our feelings is a lot deeper. I really don’t like it, it’s not ideal, but we are fighting through this and remind each other that we’re getting stronger through the separation,” said Cecilia.

Cecilia and her daughter live in Detroit and do yearly trips to visit Pedro, who is currently going through the governmental process to return. In the meantime, when they aren’t together in person, the family keeps the line of communication open.

“It’s text messages, good morning texts. Every day we just try to send good vibes to each other. Every Sunday, me and my daughter wake up and call him, play hide and seek through Skype. It’s our routine, every Sunday we get together as a family,” she said.

Through it all, Cecilia said she’s thankful to be in the city that she credits for her entire family.

“Actually, the whole story happened in Detroit, this is where most of my timeline with him happened, this is where I met him,” Cecilia said.

Their first kiss was shared in Kemeny Park in southwest Detroit.

“We went to the park in the evening and he asked, ‘do you want to be my girlfriend?’ I thought he was just joking. We used to go back and forth, it used to not seem serious and that day, I got sick of him asking and just gave in,” she joked.

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