Tom Kartsotis: The Greek-American Behind Shinola PDF Print E-mail

Greek-American, Tom Kartsotis (57) and his younger brother Kosta Kartsotis founded Fossil. The Fossil watch/accessories empire makes watches for Michael Kors, Burberry, DKNY, Diesel, Armani ExchangeAdidas, Emporio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, and Marc by Marc Jacobs. 

Tom rarely does interviews and avoids spotlight. When you do a google search, you may find a total of 3 photos, including the two in this article.

Five years ago, after growing Fossil into a $2 billion empire, Tom Kartsotis founded Shinola, a high-end watch brand famous for being manufactured in Detroit

Born to a Greek American family, he dropped out of Texas A&M, discovering his entrepreneurial flair as a ticket scalper. In his early 20s, he ventured to Asia with a plan to import cheap toys, until he was tipped off that the market for moderately priced Asian-made watches was growing. With $200,000 that he'd earned scalping, Kartsotis opened Overseas Products International, an importer of watches from Hong Kong. But it wasn't until Kartsotis came across Life and Look magazines from the 1950s that Overseas morphed into the brand called Fossil.

Kartsotis and Fossil head designer Lynne Stafford (whom he later married) re-imagined the watches, channeling the magazines' vintage look, and packaged them in tin boxes. Three decades later, the Fossil company run by Kartsotis's brother, Kosta­, does $3.2 billion in sales annually.

Tom Kartsotis set out to MAKE IN AMERICA AGAIN with the Shinola brand. 

If the Shinola name feels vintage, that's because it is. In 2010, Kartsotis spent $1 million to buy the name "Shinola" trademarked in 1903 by the American shoe polish company.

Shinola's products are designed and packaged with an American midcentury look, evoking nostalgia for a bygone era of quality and integrity. Most important, by hatching the brand in Detroit--a city emblematic of American hardship and resilience. 

The Shinola brand is selling more than just watches; it's selling a comeback. Every time customers in a department store purchase an $850 watch or $300 leather iPad case, they are supporting Detroit's rebirth and "Made in America" products.