Posted by: Kath Usitalo | May 9, 2011

The Rust Belt Market: An Idea That Makes Scents

Once upon a time in Detroit booster circles it was illegal to utter “Detroit” and “Rust Belt” in the same breath.

Okay, maybe not illegal, but close. In that faraway place we didn’t want to dwell on the negative connotation, to admit that there was a connection between our fair city and and the obvious decline of the industrial base. (And if there was all we had to do was take two aspirin and it would be better in the morning.)

Ida Belle's colorful booth, just inside the Rust Belt Market entrance

Decades later the current crop of city boosters has decided to embrace the Rust Belt reality by turning lemons into lemonade (rust into Rustoleum?).

You hear about things like the group that is raising money and support for a Robocop statue.

And creation of things like the Rust Belt Market that opened May 7 in Ferndale.

The indoor artist/flea market occupies the 15,000 square foot building at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile in beautiful downtown Ferndale. The store that once held racks of cheap, mass produced Old Navy clothing is now a marketplace for artists and vintage goods vendors to sell their wares at 6’x8′ booths that are available by the day, the weekend, or the month (or longer).

We popped in at The Rust Belt Market on Mother’s Day and the vibe was great. We browsed a nice mix of wares, from handcrafted jewelry to original clothing to antiques and baked goods—even a dollar-a-minute chair massage.

That brief visit provided lots of material for the Homemade chapter of Great lakes Gazette, starting with Ida Belle and her handmade soaps. Her products are all-natural and contain no color or dyes.

The natural scents come from using tea leaves, herbs, seaweed and petals, and they smell heavenly.

Each bar is hand shaped or hand cut, then wrapped in a pretty paper. Among the French Lilac and Organic Ginger/Lemongrass flavors I spied a combination new to me: Organic Licorice Sage Tea, sharp and sweet at once, $6.75 per slice.

I liked Ida Belle’s booth display, too, with draped fabrics and vintage display accessories throughout.

But the vivacious soap maker wouldn’t let me take her photo; she said, “it’s all about the soap, not me.”

I don’t even know if Ida Belle is her name.

Check out the Ida Belle website if you can’t visit in person to inhale the aromas of her work.

Watch this space—All week I’ll be featuring other artists I met.

Tip: If you tour Rust Belt Market and see something you love, buy it because many items are one-of-a-kind creations, or the quantities are limited, or the maker may have rented that spot for just a couple of days and may not be back.

Related Post: Return to Rust Belt (October 2011)

The Rust Belt Market is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays only.

Visitor Info Clicks: Detroit

Soaps almost too pretty to unwrap and use

Pure Michigan



  1. Great Blog. The Ida Belle website link doesn’t work. Perhaps a spelling error?

    • Thank you, Valerie.
      I had typed it IDEAbelle, maybe because I think she has a good idea.
      Appreciate the alert.

  2. really enjoyed the article and the pictures too! Very interesting place and so many talented artists at Rust Belt Market. Thanks to Chris and Tiffany for having me!

  3. oops forget…thank you so much KathUsitalo to take time to be in my booth and enjoyed my soaps! thank you!

    • I am sniffing and fondling (!) your business card (the ball of soap that you gifted me). I take a whiff when I need a pick-me-up.

  4. Good on ya Ida Belle……wish we have products like yours here in down under Aotearoa: Land of the Long White Cloud ~ to my knowledge none like it anywhere anyway.

    • You may have to order some shipped to New Zealand! 😉

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