The block in Midtown where brother-and-sister team Andy and Emily Linn run a pair of lifestyle boutiques looks dramatically different than it did six years ago. Back when they first opened City Bird’s, there was no Shinola, no Run Detroit. There was no Willy’s nor Jolly Pumpkin.
There were a couple of long-standing shops, namely the Spiral Collective and Source Booksellers. Traffic Jam and Snug was there. So was Motor City Brewing Works.
“The retail scene on the block when we opened was very small but close-knit,” says Emily. “I think that those small businesses working together helped inspire this and new businesses to come. That’s part of the reason we wanted to open in the first place, to help activate the street and help contribute a little bit to the vibrancy of the neighborhoods.”
Though Detroit was in the middle of a recession, the pair felt little trepidation at opening the shop.
“At the time, Detroit especially was very affordable so it made it seem less scary,” says Emily. “We were so excited about the developments in the neighborhood and wanted to be part of it. I think the lower cost of living made it seem more doable to take that leap.”
Quickly embraced by neighboring businesses, Andy and Emily say the camaraderie on the block made it all possible.
“The community is so supportive,” says Emily. “Then especially everyone was really excited and we all helped each other and worked together because I think people were really excited to see new development within the neighborhood.”
Half a decade later, City Bird is inarguably a success — so much so that Andy and Emily recently expanded the store. Before that they opened Nest next door. It specializes in home goods, stocking candles, wall art, kitchen gear, and even some toys.
While City Bird has stayed true to its roots, offering locally made goods and even a house-line that’s created and curated by the siblings, they have been conscious of changing styles and needs.
“The one challenge that any business owner would face is to try and evolve with the change in needs or the change in the customer base,” says Andy. “Which we tried to do, just sort of keep the stores’ offerings fresh and stay in touch with what our customers are looking for.”
And like just about everyone else chronicled in this issue, their shops aren’t their only projects.
“We published a guide book to Detroit a couple years ago, and we’re working on the next edition,” says Emily. “It was a really exciting project to work on and it has been cool to watch so many things open and there’s a lot of exciting things to add to it. So we’ve been chipping away at updating it.”