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Like a Local: Chris Perez

The writing gig that was supposed to be just a hobby for Chris Perez turned into much more after he started talking to various Austinites for his stories and tapped into the passion they had for their crafts.

He toured homes and restaurants, such as downtown bakery and beer garden Easy Tiger, for sister websites Apartment Therapy and the Kitchn, which focus on interior design and food, respectively, and got to know people he hadn’t when working as an engineer for IBM.

“A lot of times the really cool homes were owned by Austin’s creative types — designers, writers, artists,” Perez said. “Meeting them, I saw they were all living within their means and living fulfilled, and they encouraged me to do the same if that’s what I enjoyed. I lost the value of money and wanted to make the hobby a profession.”

That’s what he did. He is now the founder of Citygram, a free digital magazine available in the Apple app store that focuses on Austin — its fashion, its food, its people — and contains features from locals such as Jess Simpson, a cook and baker whose diet is gluten- and dairy-free, and Chris McCray, an interior designer who decorated South First Street restaurant Lenoir and Research Boulevard restaurant Ramen Tatsu-Ya using recycled and reclaimed materials.

After Citygram launched May 13, Perez and some of the other contributors set up a booth at the Renegade Craft Fair, a two-day event at the Palmer Events Center on May 18 and 19. Their space was “set up like a living room,” Perez said, where people attending the arts and crafts festival could sit back on couches and explore Citygram on iPads, the only medium it can currently be viewed on because of its interactive nature.

Citygram is different from many other digital magazines for that reason. Clicking on the faces of some of the Citygram writers, for example, reveals text boxes that explain their favorite music venues; a video takes readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of East Austin eatery Contigo, a favorite of Perez and other Citygram contributors for its cocktails, adventurous food and gluten-free options. This interactivity, Perez said, is part of the magazine’s appeal.

Ironically, Perez didn’t want to move to Austin several years ago when he and his wife were planning a move back to Texas from Minnesota. An earlier visit to Sixth Street made him think the city was rundown and dingy. But a trip to Mount Bonnell and other popular haunts convinced him otherwise, and they found a house in the Anderson Lane area near Hopdoddy, the Alamo Drafthouse and Juiceland. Many of these spots weren’t there at the time, a sign of Austin’s fast growth that to Perez means Citygram won’t run out of subject matter.

On Monday, he and the other regular magazine contributors met at new Italian food trailer Patrizi’s to plan coming issues, which he hopes will become monthly. “Top creative minds are all collaborating on this,” he said. “And what they’re intrigued about in regards to what makes Austin such a neat place, hopefully others will be interested, too.”

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