WRITER | CANDIE CONAT
PHOTO | THE RUST BELT MARKET
Chris and Tiffany Best enjoyed spending time at weekend art shows each summer. She had dreamed of having her own boutique shop, and they often talked about how amazing it would be to have something like these weekend art venues available all year long. The couple thought they’d come up with a new, fresh idea until they realized this already existed in Brooklyn, New York. After some investigation and a trip to New York, the Bests incorporated what they’d learned at the Brooklyn shop into their own business plan.
Once ready, they looked for the perfect retail space to put their plan in motion. As luck would have it, Tiffany had taken note of a large building on a busy corner in Ferndale. A building that had been empty for many years made for owners that were very motivated to lease it out. So, with a little savings and some family loans, the couple took a leap of faith and The Rust Belt Market was born.
With limited funds for the build-out and 15,000 square feet of empty building to fill, the couple brought in artists offering distinguished and unequaled items of all shapes and sizes. The main stipulation was that vendors must have a hand in making or changing their items in some way.
Thankfully, when a huge, highly visible empty building in a small town starts to come to life, curiosity builds, creating a natural marketing campaign. Ferndale’s residents were excited to see what fun new place was going to open, bringing much welcome attention to The Rust Belt Market.
Now, a few years after opening, Best finally has her own boutique in the market called Lady Lazarus, which offers a specialized variety of plants, pots, and prints. The market now offers over 35 other impressive businesses, including Fly K-9, Motor City Brick, Rare Bits Jewelry, Artsy Fart, and Bitchin’ Stitchin’, to name just a few. The eclectic blend of artists is truly distinctive – not something you will find in every town and on every corner.
During those first few years, the couple regularly received requests to rent the space for private events. They realized that by reconfiguring the layout, they could offer an event space in the middle surrounded by the vendor market around the perimeter. As luck would have it, they were able to snag one of the final liquor licenses being offered by the city of Ferndale, making them one of the only places you can grab a beer at the bar and enjoy it while you shop. Their event space is in high demand now, too.
With an outdoor patio, a 7-foot aquarium housing five adorable and stunning poisonous dart frogs, and a full-service bar, it’s obvious that The Rust Belt Market is not strictly about the shopping. As Chris puts it, “This is experiential shopping at its best — a visual feast and a fun gathering place in a quaint, walkable community.” Their website offers a virtual tour, in case you can’t wait to check it out before you visit.
The Rust Belt Market
22801 Woodward Avenue
Ferndale, Michigan 48220