What’s This Thing?
The Rust Belt Market is a home for working artists. Built on the bones of a failed Old Navy, the Rust Belt gives makers, dreamers, artists and craftsman a beautiful and affordable place to sell their work. This isn’t just another mall or flea market though; this is curated – almost like an art gallery. You’ll never see Honey Boo Boo shirts, truck nutz or 90’s DVD’s being peddled in our space. Creativity is in the air, along with music, the smell of artisan roasted coffee, and the din of thousands of people connecting with the people that make their things. One of the major goals of this expansion project is to lead to the market component being open beyond the current weekend hours.
Where is it?
‘Where is it?’ is almost the most important part of the story. The Rust Belt lives at the northwest corner of 9 Mile and Woodward Avenue in the bohemian city of Ferndale, Michigan, one mile north of Detroit. The location is important for our story. What's the story? In 2010, the economy was bad and Michigan’s was one of the worst. Chris and Tiffany Best saw the writing on the wall. They had respectable jobs and skills but wanted to invent their own future. How though? Tiffany’s own design studio? Boutique with consignment? The ‘ah-ha!’ moment came at an art fair. What if this could happen every weekend? Tiffany wrote a convincing business plan and on paper it was perfect. Artisans could have their own community in which to do business on a regular basis and they wouldn’t have to travel weekend-to-weekend. They could, just maybe, NOT be starving artists. After some quick research, they discovered this model was already working in Brooklyn. They visited the NY spot and nosed their way into speaking with the owners, who said “We think you have moxie and may be able to pull it off. We’ll let you know what to do and what not to do because there’s no way in hell we will ever do this in Detroit.” The rest is history. Mostly. Remember the line mentioned above? “On paper it was perfect!”
Why Do We Need Funding?
Now is when we get to the location being important to the story. In order to have successful artists we need to offer them two things: Lots of foot traffic and low costs. If we’re in a hip spot with high foot traffic we’ve got high rent, if we have high rent we need to figure out a way to keep our costs down. That means finding other ways of bringing home the bacon to keep the doors open. This means using the space we have in ways we haven’t. We’re an anchor business in Ferndale because of our location, but we haven’t been acting like it. Our expensive space at Nine Mile and Woodward isn’t open for five days of the week for several reasons. Some vendors make enough during the weekends to sustain a decent living, most don’t and keep a part or full time job to make ends meet. Right now foot traffic during the weekdays is not what it is on the weekends because most people work during the day, so any vendor wouldn’t make the profit they need to stay open. Also, our current model does create opportunity for small business but it does not support us hiring desperately needed help (It’s just the two of us!). This project you help fund will ultimately lead to the first official Rust Belt employees!
What Are We Doing With It?
We’re destroying everything we've built and starting over. Well, not everything, but a lot. We’ll be putting in a ton of sweat equity along with input from our vendors to create a stunning all-purpose event space right in the middle of the market. We’ll use it as flex space. During the week, it can be rented out for parties, concerts, art showings, workshops, weddings, yoga classes--almost anything, really. 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.
Why Not Just Go To A Bank?
Banks charge interest, interest drives up overhead, overhead has to be passed on to our artists. We can certainly go and apply for a loan but there is no guarantee we will get one. Even if we do it’s only going to make things harder for our vendors because that added cost has to come from somewhere. We’d prefer to build an environment that’s better for artists and in-turn better for us.
Risks and challenges
After the project is successfully funded Chris will use his construction background as the general contractor and hammer swinger on this project. He's set out a schedule of a little over a month to construct the walls and complete interior design. The effort will consume most of Chris' time and with Tiffany pregnant and due with their third child in June it'll be a busy schedule. With all that in mind, fulfillment will have to wait until July when all the craziness slows. The backers awarded event space will be able to schedule event space before July and the launch party for our $300 and up contributors will take place in August.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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