The Rust Belt Market: Local Business Reinvents Itself

By: Toni Cunningham | March 5, 2013

For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Rust Belt Market, it’s a dream come true for Pinterest and Etsy lovers alike. Housed in one of the city of Ferndale’s most prominent buildings, the 15,000 square-foot space offers a place for over 60 artists and artisans to grow their customer base before opening up a business of their own.

The Rust Belt is currently open on Saturdays and Sundays only. However, owners and entrepreneurs Tiffany and Chris Best are hoping to change that. On Wednesday, February 20, the husband and wife duo launched a Kickstarter campaign, to help raise money to keep The Rust Belt’s doors open during the week.

Through crowdfunding like the Kickstarter campaign, a group of individuals work together to raise money and awareness for a particular project in order to support the efforts initiated by another individual or organization. It’s a “by the people, for the people” campaign, if you will.

“We’ve been operating on weekends alone for nearly two years now, and have a vision for what we need to do in order to become a stronger anchor for our community and Metro Detroit,” Tiffany said. “An event or all-purpose space will allow the building to be more than a storage facility Monday through Friday.”

The goal is to raise $20,000 through the all-or-nothing campaign, and if the Bests don’t reach their goal, they won’t receive any of the funds. They chose the Kickstarter campaign route because it’s tough for independent businesses to get a substantial line of credit or to even be approved for a small business loan. Additionally, taking out a loan would drive up costs for the artists, which they are trying to avoid. Tiffany believes that crowdfunding is the future of creative projects like The Rust Belt, and hopes this method will build a bigger, better Belt.

“The Rust Belt has taken a defunct big-box retail space and turned it into a fertile ground for small, creative-based businesses to grow,” Tiffany said. “It’s a place where patrons enjoy spending time with family, friends and out-of-town guests.”

The two know precisely how the funds will be put to use and have a calculated plan of action. The contributions will be used to build walls, complete electrical work, fix up the venue’s bathrooms and fulfill other necessary improvements.

If all goes according to plan, the Bests will have the event space completed by May, undergo smaller improvements in June and begin scheduling events (including weddings, fashion shows, gallery openings and corporate meetings) in July. They have received several requests for such events in the past, but are unable to accommodate them with the current setup of The Rust Belt.

The idea is to schedule the aforementioned events, workshops and classes on weekdays. As long as they’re not disruptive to the market element, there’s also the possibility for events to be held on weekends, too.

Ultimately, every move the Bests make is with the purpose of enriching the community and contributing to the local economy—that’s why all commerce from The Belt stays local.

After the new additions, Tiffany and Chris have goals for even further into the future. In five years, they hope to expand the market’s shopping hours and diversify their business model to reach even more Metro Detroiters.

It’s time to take action! By contributing to the cause, you’ll be supporting local Michigan businesses, as well as the local artist community. You can do your part to help make The Rust Belt an even better place by clicking this link to find out additional details and to make a contribution. The Rust Belt’s Kickstarter campaign will run through Friday, March 22 and each backer who pledges $5 or more will receive a special gift as a thank you.

  • $5 or more: Thank you mention on www.rustbeltmarket.com
  • $10 or more: “I support The Rust Belt Market” sticker by artist Chris Gorski of Detroit GT
  • $25 or more: “I Support” poster by letterpress artist Bryan Baker of Stukenborg Press plus above mentioned gifts.
  • $50 or more: “I Support” t-shirt designed by Chris Gorski of Detroit GT plus above mentioned gifts.
  • $100 or more: Your name prominently worked into artist Marty Winter’s Mural in new event space plus above mentioned gifts.
  • $300 or more: Invitation for you and a guest to special private party to celebrate the new event space! They will provide entertainment and beverages plus above mentioned gifts.
  • $500 or more: Try out the new beautiful event space! You and 50 of your friends can use it for whatever private event you wish (this includes the space only for a 6 hour max). You save $$!! Post Kickstarter event space rental starts at $700. Receive this plus above mentioned gifts.
  • $1,000 or more: Try out the new event space! You and 100 friends can use it for whatever kind of private party event you wish. With access to entire 15,000 sq ft market with selected artisan vendors present and they will provide entertainment (Arial ballet, DJ, band, vibraphone player or any of the other great performers they have to choose from. 6 hr max) Plus above mentioned gifts.
  • $2,000 or more: Custom built sign by Speedcult metal artists for your business or home plus above mentioned gifts.

Rust Belt-2