“Thank You Recession” — How Two Artists from Michigan Revitalized their Community
Written by CustomMade’s Maker Success team member Tammy Kingan.
It could be the plot of a Hollywood movie: A young couple struggling to start their lives together get hit by a massive recession, come up with a new idea, and follow their dreams to New York City… except this tale doesn’t stop there and this certainly isn’t Hollywood.
It is wonderful to find creative people like Chris and Tiffany Best, founders of The Rust Belt Market, who took their passion for the creative and turned it into a positive movement for their community. While others headed to places like NYC or LA to “make it big,” this couple tapped into their local artist population in Detroit and discovered artisans with strong, edgy vibes that put typical “stodgy” art fairs to shame.
“We both love to make things of beauty, but we knew how hard it is for the creative person to pursue a living doing what they love. Most are relegated to work a crummy day job, do their ‘hobby’ on the side, and maybe wait for the next local art fair hoping to sell some work to supplement their income.”
The couple came up with the concept of a weekly marketplace where the artistic talents of the Midwest could showcase their work to the public. “We did what anyone who thinks they have something original does and started doing Google key word searches. The closest thing to what we were thinking was in Brooklyn, NY called Artists and Fleas. We skipped out on the family Thanksgiving dinner and traveled to NYC to investigate this intriguing business.”
After meeting the owners of Artists and Fleas, Chris and Tiffany felt more than encouraged and decided to, as they put it, “put theory into practice and haven’t looked back since.” They opened the Rust Belt Market on May 7, 2011, right as the United States fell into a recession. Last year the local economy slumped enormously, and in July the Department of Labor declared Detroit set a record for unemployment at a staggering 28.9%.
“Turns out, the people of the Midwest do not give up and they are incredibly creative. Fortunately, Michigan’s bad economy left a huge empty box (a defunct Old Navy) in a high traffic, hip city, and forced talented, out-of-work people to look for other means of income. (This terrible economy) affected us enough financially to try something risky. Thank you recession.”
The Rust Belt Market’s website says it best: “In theory the market would satisfy two needs. The first was a place to provide a steady ‘store front’ for the super talented and local artisans and collectors of this region. The second was to provide a unique retail experience that would stimulate all five senses of shoppers. Patrons could feel good about their purchases on multiple levels. They would be buying something completely unique AND every dollar they spend would stay in the local economy. A true win-win-win.”
So what’s all this have to do with CustomMade? Just like us, The Rust Belt Market is all about supporting artists and specifically highlights the work of the “little man” (or woman!) They are supporting their local economy, which is what CustomMade facilitates on a daily basis, by exposing consumers to Makers from their communities that they might have never known were there in the first place. Today, The Rust Belt Market showcases over 55 amazing artists every week, has a stage for performance art, houses unique architectural features built by Tiffany and Chris themselves, and its newest addition- a mini restaurant!
As Chris puts it: “The City of Ferndale, MI is one of the hippest, most creative cities in the Midwest and The Rust Belt Market is proud to call it home. If Custommade.com had a brick and mortar store, it would look a lot like TRMB. We are only a year old and we’re all ready becoming a tourist destination. We hope to see you soon and give you a warm Midwestern greeting!”
The Rust Belt Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11am–7pm and is located at 2280 Woodward Avenue, Ferndale, Michigan 48220. You can find out more about being both a customer and/or a vendor on their website as well as keep up with Chris and Tiffany on their Facebook and Twitter.