City Bird Kids Love Detroit (and Hope You Do, Too)

Live, work and create in Detroit? Yep, it's not as uncommon as you think. Meet City Bird, a Motor City born and bred brother/sister design duo that's turning city love into cash and community.
Suburbanites, be prepared to feel alienated in a sec. Or just a little jealous. This is a story about living and working in your own neighborhood. It's about biking to your destination and taking trains. It's about drinking locally brewed beer made by your friends. Heck, it's even a story about staying put instead of skating out. So hang on to your Costco cards and one-hour-plus commute — this Detroit tale of two ambitious young souls revolves around using, seeing, and loving your city as it is right now—not how everyone one day wishes it to be.
You may have heard the word about City Bird. With products like vintage city map soaps, vinyl LP clocks and "Greetings from Detroit" note cards, these are the kinda goods you wanna gift to friends and family who've moved away from Detroit. They're also the perfect way to spread a bit of urban hometown cheer. But then again, the creators of City Bird are already doing that every day.
Siblings Andy and Emily Linn, ages 24 and 30, make up City Bird. The second youngest and oldest of four siblings raised on the East Side, they'll tell you at any given chance how proud they are to be sixth-generation Detroiters. Home-schooled in their elementary years, students of Detroit Waldorf in their teens, and post-grad educated at Wayne State, these two aren't just part of the city they grew up in, they're proof that you don't need lattes on every corner to make the young folk stick around.
Barrier-free environment

What they recognize, instead, is that Detroit's a place where one can make a mark with relative ease.

"There's less barrier to entry, so it's easier for young people to do exciting things in Detroit," says Andy. Sister Emily adds, "Also the fact that if you want to start a magazine, start a business, or if you have something you want to do, it's really easier to start it here than in some place that's bigger and already developed. It's a blank canvas."
The two go on to explain over Traffic Jam brews that, sure, tons of kids still move to Portland and New York, but that a lot of friends from their college days (they both went to the Residential College at U of M) are coming to Detroit.
"The Detroit 'young people community' is very accepting and open and welcomes people who move into the city," says Andy. "That's not the case with some other cities." Emily agrees and then adds that it's a close-knit, but open, group in Detroit and that's what keeps them here. When asked what kind of things could keep more young people here, it's almost like they never had to question why they wouldn't.
"It's a difficult question," says Andy. "Because it's hard to nail it on the head. There's so much to do already in the city, it's just not always known. There are lots of hidden gems."
By hidden gems they mean places like the UFO Factory, the Tangent Gallery, and Bohemian National Home. They mean events like the Alley Cat Bike races and stores like the Hub on Cass. "Detroit is an amazing city for activity, but a lot of it is underground. Which makes it both more interesting," says Andy, "and less accessible at first."
All's good in the neighborhood

But on the flip side of the fun, what about work? Besides doing City Bird, Emily works at the DIA's Education Arts Studio. Andy works at the MOCAD store and as a graduate research assistant at Wayne.

This makes their everyday life in Midtown walkable, bikeable, and pretty stress-free. Emily actually has a car but hardly ever uses it. Andy visits his girlfriend and younger brother in Ann Arbor on weekends by Amtrak. Theirs is just the kind of lifestyle push we're used to seeing in other big cities. It's always been such a foreign concept here, where the normal conversation seems to center around the traffic, not what living and working and creating locally can do for your peace of mind. (Not the mention the environment, your bank account, and your sense of possibility.)
Andy says that city life and urban planning are what keep him here, too. That's why he's pursuing his master's in urban planning and hopes to one day combine his degree with a personal business in the city.
"It's fascinating to see how the city functions and what the hopes for the city are," he says. "It goes back to barriers for entry. If you want to create an amazing building or complex or business, it's easier here."
Meanwhile, Andy and his sister have City Bird. They plan tote bags and an expanded card line. They've even been kicking around doing something with the historical figures of Detroit. (Watch out, Mr. Hazen S. Pingree!)
But as much as they currently enjoy living in the city, being surrounded by family and friends, and work and business, they still are part of the big collective hope.
"We have a faith and a sense in revival," says Andy. "We want to be part of it and promote it. It doesn't take thousands of people, every single person can have an effect."
So will the two stay in Detroit to see the revival through?
"The city of Detroit and just the way the people interact with each other and the history of this town are too much a part of me to let it go," says Andy.
"We're both in it for the long haul," says Emily.
Glad to hear it, Model D says back.

City Bird products can be found live and locally at the Bureau of Urban Living, in Midtown, Pure Detroit's shops, and Design 99 in Hamtramck. For more info or to shop online, go to

Jennifer Andrews is a freelance writer who lives, works and creates in Detroit. She's also a huge Hazen S. Pingree buff.


Andy and Emily Linn at the Traffic Jam with their City Bird goods.

Photographs by Marvin Shaouni
Marvin Shaouni is the managing photographer for Metromode & Model D.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.