Rust Belt Market adding party, event space

Since transforming a vanilla, Old Navy store on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale into a colorful cacophony of artistic sights, sounds – and even smells – The Rust Belt Market is making some changes meant to take the business to the next level.

With two years of operation under their belt, Rust Belt founders Chris and Tiffany Best have decided the weekend-only artists’ market needs a full-time pursuit.

With their own money, elbow grease provided by themselves, friends and family and $21,000 raised in a Kickstarter campaign they are renovating the market, adding a party and event space that can be used any day of the week. Currently the market is open only on Saturdays and Sundays and an occasional Friday night for special events. The Bests are also updating restrooms and redesigning the building so that artists’ booths will be safe and secure.

The remodel of the market at the corner of Woodward and 9 Mile begins after this weekend. The new event space will cover 4,000 square feet of the 15,000 sq. ft. market. The new space will be right in the center of the market and be used as a flex space, the Bests say.

Rust Belt is an art fair, something the Bests love, but more. Artists, crafters and makers at Rust Belt are screened so that the mix is interesting, the quality and creativity high. Artists of all sorts – furniture and food makers, jewelers, seamstresses, painters, potters and many more – sell from booths that often are their own pieces of art, far from the moveable partitions or collapsible tents a la art fairs. A day at the market is musicians performing, coffee roasters roasting, and crafters carving and polishing.

While the market has clearly set itself apart, giving artists a successful retail outlet for their work and generating plenty of fans who appreciate the building itself for the art it is, the market is missing the business aspect that will let it thrive, the Bests say. The event space may be the answer by attracting more paying customers, such as musicians who have asked to use the space to make videos, to the market.

“During the week, it can be rented out for parties, concerts, art showings, workshops, weddings, yoga classes – almost anything, really,” the Bests explain in their Kickstarter appeal. “During the weekend it’ll be home to traveling vendors or marquee artists helping to bring people in from the outer suburbs. It will be open for after-hour event opportunities as well. Most importantly, the resident businesses will not have to disassemble their micro-shops or worry about security issues when Rust Belt hosts events. The market that exists today will be the same cool thing it has been every weekend, but more streamlined, smarter, and with a regular draw. It’s a scary prospect, but the only way to maintain the values we’ve put forward for ourselves and our business, keep prices low for artists, and increase the traffic through the market is to look for different ways to use the space.”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source:  Chris and Tiffany Best, founders and owner/operators, Rust Belt Market