Thanksgiving had passed, to get in the holiday shopping mode we took a drive over to downtown Ferndale. Located off the Woodward corridor this hip, urban city has a little bit of everything. Earlier in the year The Rust Belt Market took over the space formerly occupied by the Old Navy Outlet, we have been curious to see what it is all about, so it was our first stop. It was pouring rain, like every other car driving around we were hoping for a close parking place, we found one not too far from the entrance. We noticed many other people heading to the Belt and wondered if there was something special going on inside.
Pass through the entrance and you immediately know that yes, there is something special going on. A young couple took this large, mundane retail space and have worked a little magic. Completely unrecognizable as it’s former chain retail self, the interior has been transformed into a year round home for artists and entrepreneurs. A platform sits near the center and is a stage for musicians who perform each weekend. When we arrived a young woman with a lovely voice sat at the piano and played her songs; the volume was perfect, you could clearly enjoy her performance and still carry on a conversation with vendors. This is no Flea Market or Consignment Shop, there are no cheap or imported goods sold at the Belt. The vendors are hand picked, each vendor or shop, as I like to think of it, is run by the owner; the people who make the product are the same ones selling it.
I was completely taken in as soon as I came in the door; the set-up is very appealing, each little shop has it’s own distinct look, the aisles are easy to navigate without being set up in straight rows, the variety is fantastic. The goods offered are high quality and unique, yes there are vintage items but they are collections sold by people who collect and curate full time. Artists sell stunning paintings and photography, designers of jewelry and clothing show off their talents, one shop sells americana and vintage items unique to Michigan and Detroit; how about a candle made from an old Town Club pop bottle? I saw jewelery made from typewriter keys and old silverware, gorgeous carved clay tiles, handmade soaps and lip balms inspired by classic cocktails, people are so creative!
No market is complete without edible offerings, we grabbed some cookies from Butter & Flour & Sugar, oatmeal white chocolate with cranberries, Yum ! The Belt is also home to Henrietta Haus Coffee Roasters, Perkins Pickles, Pete’s chocolate from Hamtramck, and the place that stopped me in my tracks: Rock City Pies…..Yes, I literally stopped and stared at these awe-inspiring pies for about a minute, then of course I took a step closer so I could look some more. Whole pies are displayed in covered glass plates, you can buy them by the slice or take a whole one home. If I remember correctly they had Pecan Bourbon, Salted Caramel Apple, Pumpkin Whiskey, and a Cranberry something, it had a few slices removed revealing extraordinary height and a beautiful cranberry colored filling, how’s a person supposed to choose? We hadn’t had dinner yet, so we forced ourselves to walk away and continue considering our options.
I have to say The Rust Belt Market was a wonderful surprise to me, what a fantastic arrangement; 30 vendors every weekend, live music, amazing edibles and endless gift possibilities. I also appreciate the fact that for every dollar I spend here 100% stays in the local economy. The market is open Saturday and Sunday from 11-7, and an occasional Friday for a special event. I will definitely be back.
Looking at all the food made us realize how hungry we were, The Blue Nile just a ways down 9 Mile was calling our names. The restaurant is very attractive inside, soft lighting, beautiful woodwork,and the bright colors and art work of Ethiopia. If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, I highly recommend it; before you try it there are a few things you need to know: First, everyone eats from the same platter, basically it resembles an extra large round pizza pan, it has a layer of injera (Ethiopian bread made from Teff and water) which is then covered by mounds of specialty dishes. Second, you do not use silverware; this is where the injera comes in. Along with the platter you receive a basket of what appears to be large, very thin undercooked pancakes torn in half and folded. This is your fork; tear off a piece, hold it in your hand and scoop up one of the many delicious dishes. We go vegetarian here; yellow split peas cooked till tender in berbere sauce, collard greens, mixed vegetables including potatoes, carrots and green beans, I think the split red lentils are my favorite, delicious with a kick of spice. Don’t hesitate to just dig in and try everything, each dish is unique and flavorful. Kris has to have the Honey Wine with his meal, he says it compliments the seasonings of the vegetables perfectly. I am crazy about the Ethiopian Spiced Tea, there is no cane sugar in Ethiopia so they use a mixture of ingredients like Rose Hips, Cinnamon, Chamomile and citrus peel to make the tea naturally sweet, I like it both hot and cold. When you order the vegeterian feast they will bring you as much as you want, we had 2 servings of everything. Getting out of the booth we realized we should have stopped eating sooner…
A little window shopping was in order to try and walk off some of the fullness. Ferndale has a great mix of unique and independent shops; from apparel and jewelry to health food and home furnishings the shopping is plentiful. There’s a great store called Mother Fletchers, recently having moved a few spaces from their original location, they specialize in vintage clothing and accessories. I love walking up and down the aisles browsing through their well organized selection of goods. After wandering in and out of storefronts we found ourselves back at Rust Belt Market standing in front of, you guessed it, Rock City Pies. As full as we were visions of pie kept taunting us. Lucky for us the market was still open, though there wasn’t even a crumb left of the cranberry, Salted Caramel Apple was still available. We had a piece wrapped to go and made the drive home. Later that evening we indulged in our purchase, scrumptious! The top crust was chewy and almost cookie like, covered with melted caramel and coarse salt, it works perfectly with the sweetness of the thinly sliced apples, this choice was a winner.
Shopping in Ferndale is fun, come see for yourself!