Experiencing Northern Michigan: Local Artists & Makers Bring Life to The Market at Cadillac Commons

Welcome to The Market at Cadillac Commons, a brand-new community gathering space in the heart of Downtown Cadillac. Now a new 6,000-square-foot, open-air farmers market, The Market is a fresh addition to the Cadillac cityscape centered around placemaking, community, and the values of this little town with big dreams. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, May 29, The Market officially opened and is now available for local events and community gatherings, including the Made in Michigan Artisan and Farm Market and the Cadillac Area Farmers Market

Back in mid- to late-2016, the site behind Cadillac 4 movie theatre had been excavated for the Market’s construction, flattened to dirt. By early August 2017, the Cadillac City Council had approved a $1.2 million construction bid from Cole Incorporated, a local company, to build The Market at Cadillac Commons. The money to cover the construction costs comes from crowdfunding and grants in addition to some city funding. Back when the City approved the bid, Cadillac Mayor Carla Filkins told 9&10 News what a great investment in the community’s future The Market is, and how “all of this is happening because we have such an incredibly giving community. The decision we made last night is going to affect generations to come,” she said. “We are really proud of the project.” Groundbreaking then began on September 18, 2017, and the rest is history (I’ll write about that in the future).

The Cadillac Made in Michigan Artisan and Farm Market located at The Market at Cadillac Commons opened in the new location for the first time on the morning of Friday, May 31, where dozens of local vendors, farmers, artists, and makers gathered together to enjoy their new marketplace space. Nancy Wellman, director of this fun market for local makers, recognizes how the new marketplace is a real focal point for the Cadillac community. Last Friday morning, on Flag Day, I wandered through the brilliant space, enjoyed meeting nearly all the local artists, and even around shopped for new jewelry, a painting inspired by the beauty of Northern Michigan, and . . . cookies.

It’s true, I stocked up on a dozen delicious chocolate cherry cookies for $5 from Kruschinska Farms, based in Lake City (where they specialize in rabbit and poultry meat and eggs laid by a variety of birdsnot just chickens!). Founded in 2004, the mission behind Kruschinska Farms is to “bring a little bit of country living into everyone’s life, and to provide products that remind you of your childhood and the stuff that Grandma used to make,” and their “eat good, feel good!” motto encourages healthy food for a healthy life and translates into their homegrown approach to supporting community. Kruschinska Farms raises chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys for meat, breeds and raises New Zealand white rabbits, and also offers their own line of sauces, marinades, and rubs to complement their meats. They even have a YouTube channel!

Based in Houghton Lake (about 45 minutes east of Cadillac), RuffRouter Custom Signs creates routed custom and ready-made wood signs in various sizes and shapes with fun sayings and illustrations on them. RuffRouter artist and owner Eldon Frantz says it’s just a hobby, and even if it is, he’s incredibly talented at his craft. Under the same eye-catching purple vendor tent, Eldon and his wife Lois also run the adorable shop Annie’s, where they sell fudge, brownies, james, jellies, quilts, jewelry, and all of Eldon’s woodcrafts, paintings, and prints. The pair of them are the sweetest artists you’ll meet in Cadillac: Lois is a poet and writer, while Eldon is a painter and woodcrafter. Together, the two have the cheeriest, most hilarious outlook on life. Their advice for not aging: “Don’t look in the mirror. You won’t recognize yourself!” I love it. And maybe that’s the secret. Just love, people, and good, real, hearty laughter.

Handmade Gifts by Rhonda, based in Gaylord, offers “a little something for everyone.” Her specialty are stunning silk flower arrangements. The best part about fake flowers: they won’t wilt! Rhonda’s floral creations are pure loveliness, as are her handmade faux leather purses. The Market is all about community and family, and Rhonda’s sister Letha’s booth is right next door to hers! Letha’s Fine Art and Gifts offered a fascinating display of and-painted cards, exquisite children’s stories Letha wrote, illustrated, and published herself, plus lots of gorgeous original artwork.

Another local painter, Connie Redman, who owns CR Woodpainting in Evart, is an exceptionally talented artist. Her motto? “You want it, Connie can paint it.” Take her up on it! If you’re interested in more typography and graphic design work, Teresa Curlin is the owner, artist, and designer at TS Designs, where she makes fine art and handmade crafts, which she sells through her TS Designs Etsy shop (for vintage decor and affirmations) and through her TS Sarcasm Factory Etsy shop (for hilarious adult gifts). Teresa thinks up the funniest, sassiest, loveliest words and sayings for her one-of-a-kind designs, and her vintage vision for modern labels is so clever. I love the wit, charm, and style!

At the Northern Shores Rocks & More booth, you’ll find stunning stone pieces by Darrin and Roxy Starlin (the best names, right?!). Based in LeRoy, Northern Shores makes custom stone knives, hand-cut and polished stone items, wire-wrapped jewelry, and more. I love how they package miniature glass bottles of Cadillac Blue slag glass as sweet little souvenirs and how their perfectly polished Petoskey stones impressively highlight the natural beauty of the world around us.

Colorful Creations is run by Laura Sundstrom, who makes and sells the prettiest sea glass, trivets, custom jewelry, and coasters, inspired by florals, patterns, and the great outdoors of Northern Michigan. Creations by Della, based locally here in Cadillac, sells totally original beaded, polymer clay, and stone jewelry and rugs. Not only are Della’s creations uniquely lovely, but they’re also made from recycled materials, which is super cool. I love repurposing old items to make new art and crafts from recycling!

Jill Barton from Unique Photography has an unbelievable eye for art. Her ability to capture breathtaking images through a camera lens is NatGeo level good, and yet she’s wonderfully humble about her skills. On a trip to Alaska when she was 15 years old, Jill took her first photos, which today are Instagrammable, as all of Jill’s photography is. What’s especially remarkable about her talents is that she rarely ever uses Photoshopshe simply has a great eye and loves capturing the beauty, abundance, and truth of the world around her. Jill offers a variety of packages for her services, providing wonderful memories you can cherish forever.

At the Cards by LouAnne booth, you’ll find the colorful, bright, handmade and hand-painted prints. Based in McBain, Nanny’s Notions sells crochet and crafts made by Ginger Coy—she’s “your crochet connection” for all your crafting needs. If you’re a fan of comic books, Anime, or drawing by hand, Sara Raymond is a talented illustrator, storyteller, and jewelry designer. She makes comics, copic, sketches, watercolors, and more, and she’ll even do commissions if there’s something specific you have in mind. Check Sara out on Deviant Art and Tumblr!

If you’re looking for something a little more rustic, Margaret Elenbaas from Woodburning by ME makes custom designs and finished products out of beautiful wood. Unique Woodburning and More offers comfortable, stylish, functional works of art by Tony Belkowski. Inspired by sports teams (Detroit Red Wings, Tigers, Lions, Michigan State, and Michigan—go blue!), nature, and history, Tony is an expert at what he does, and the quality of his work shines. For Cadillac woodworker Brad Berry, making furniture for more than 20 years is just a hobby. He designs and builds the most comfortable wooden rocking benches and oversized chairs you’ll ever sit in, perfect for a front porch hangout at sunset.

Etched in Amber, “The Teen Jeweler,” is so talented! At just 17 years old, Amber just completed her junior year at Cadillac High School and is excited for summer. I’m obsessed with the rings she made me. Amber handles jewelry repair, customization, and resizing to suit all your needs! She’s also a pro at designing and making beautiful pieces right on the spot! If you can dream it up, Amber can create it for you in minutes. It’s super impressive to see in person, so be sure to request your own custom ring at the next Cadillac Area Made in Michigan Artisan and Farm Market!

Funded entirely through grants and donations, The Market at Cadillac Commons is a phenomenal success and positive example for other rural communities in Northern Michigan, throughout Michigan, and across the country. The whole Commons project shows how putting a little time, care, and meaningful planning into the idea of placemaking can truly change the way people interact, not only with the spaces that surround them, but also with each other.

Placemaking can help change the culture of a town and create organic opportunities for civic discourse and grassroots efforts to occur. Community Development Director for the City of Cadillac John Wallace has been integral to the strategy, design, implementation, and success of Cadillac Commons, as has Cadillac City Manager Marcus Peccia (who received the Community Builder Award from the Michigan Municipal League in March 2017), and many other community leaders. 

The Cadillac Area Farmers Market will also be inhabiting this fantastically functional space, selling locally grown produce, pastries, and handmade goods. The new marketplace offers this long-standing, close-knit group a sense of appreciation, a boost of energy, and a revitalized place to call home after 35 years serving healthy local options to the Cadillac community. When the farmers market first started, vendors lined up along the sidewalks outside downtown businesses, then expanded to a parking lot adjacent to the public library, where I wrote an Experiencing Northern Michigan column about the local farmers market as it existed nearly two years ago. The Market opens Fridays from 8am-5pm for the Made in Michigan Artisan and Farm Market and Saturdays from 10am-4:30pm for the Cadillac Area Farmers Market.

Admiring the structure standing before us today, you can’t not agree: The Market at Cadillac Commons is a remarkable feat, an ambitious project that took vision and guts. Its presence has already made our community so happy, grateful, and proud to live here and call Cadillac home. The Commons, exciting developments downtown, and the growth of surrounding areas are like small-town miracles. This community is thriving thanks to the support, commitment, and hard work of caring local people who love the Cadillac area. If you look around, there’s a lot to love these days!

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