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Rust Belt Takes on Savory Food with New Slider Bar Brew Jus

Brew Jus, featuring gourmet sliders with homemade beer-based sauces, will open June 21 as the flagship savory food vendor inside the Rust Belt Market.

Starving artist? Or just starving?

shoppers will be in for a savory treat starting June 21 as the market's flagship savory food vendor, Brew Jus, opens up shop.

"Basically, the company is redefining the role between beer and food," said chef Nick Schultz, co-owner of Brew Jus along with brewer David Ballew.

Brew Jus, which uses all local ingredients, will feature four different gourmet sliders: beef, turkey, chicken and one beet-based vegan option. All the sauces served on the sliders are made from Ballew's beer – with flavors like a pumpkin ale, Michigan cherry wheat and a signature imperial brown combining malt, caramel and chocolate. The sauces also can also be purchased separately.

You'll notice the aroma when you walk in the market next week. "It's going to be alluring to people who come in," Schultz said.

Beer-based ice cream will be for sale, and Brew Jus aims to one day sell its beer on site. "We want to eventually be able to serve beer," Ballew said.

Artisan market meets 'artisan sliders'

If it seems fitting that Ferndale's artisan market will be home to the "artisan sliders" and unique line of made-from-scratch sauces, that's because it is.

The owners say their partnership with the Rust Belt was a perfect fit, with the market looking to expand into the savory food arena at the same time as Schultz and Ballew were trying to open a business. But a traditional brick-and-mortar business requires significant capital.

"That's the magic of the Rust Belt," said Rust Belt co-owner Chris Best.

Best and Ballew clicked from the beginning - both highly driven and willing to take risks on trying something new - and it paid off, because opening a "nano-kitchen" operation inside of a pre-existing market isn't something the health department had much experience with.

Thinking out of the box

"It's just not the traditional way," Ballew said, adding that he hopes their experience will help influence regulations to be more friendly to new, innovative businesses. "Small businesses have to think innovatively to be successful. Just like Tiffany and Chris taking on that huge building and doing what they're doing. For Brew Jus to be part of that, I think it's just going to be incredible."

Getting approval from all the various departments required some persistence, and the help of city officials who were also willing to think outside the box.

"I think it speaks volumes for the city," Schultz said of everyone coming together to make the idea work. "It's just been a great experience, and it's cool that we're creating something that hasn't really been around."

Hurdles aside and less than a week away from opening, everyone involved is breathing a sigh of relief. "We needed a home. We found a home," Schultz said. "There's nothing like it out there. It's a good fit."

Bigger picture for Rust Belt

Best said Brew Jus is part of the Rust Belt's expansion to include more savory food options, since the current food vendors at the market only offer sweeter options like pie, cookies and other treats. A new seating area is also in the works to accommodate the growth and will be in place by July.

"The reason this is all happening is because there's been a huge demand for food," Best said. "It's almost long overdue but we couldn't have done it any sooner. It needs to happen ... It just took somebody like these guys."

Ballew said he's excited about the Rust Belt offering more food options. "I think there's room for everyone," he said. "If it becomes more of a destination for people to eat good food then it's a win win."

On that note, Ballew pointed out that though Brew Jus wants to eventually open full manufacturing facility in the city, it will stay at the market regardless. "We're permanent; we're staying at Rust Belt," he said.

That's been the trend for Rust Belt vendors, many of which have grown into new brick-and-mortar businesses since starting at the market, Best said.

"In the past... you have to have like a bank note of $50,000 to $60,000. Then you're scared you have to make this work," he said, noting the smaller investment involved here. "There is a demand for this; this works."

If you go

Brew Jus will be open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. A grand opening event will is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. June 21. For more information, visit www.brewjus.com or check out the Brew Jus page on Facebook.

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