Looking for a purrrfect cup of coffee? How about a feline companion to curl up on your lap while you sip your cup of joe and nibble on a pastry? Even if you don’t own a cat, you’ll soon be able to have both, if a local entrepreneur and cat lover has her way. You could even take your new best four-legged friend home.
Kati Palmurkar is working to open Grand Rapids’ first cat cafe called the Happy Cat, a combination coffee lounge and cat adoption center. Customers can order an espresso and a bagel from the non-cat area and then spend time playing or sitting with the felines in a storefront area connected to, but separate from the cafe.
“It’s a way for people to interact with cats in a comfortable atmosphere, as opposed to seeing them in cages at animal shelters,” Palmurkar says. “There are a growing number of people who live in apartments away from home, can’t afford to have a pet or don’t have a residence that allows cats.”
The concept of cat cafes grew in Japan and Taiwan and has been popular in Asia for years, but the idea just crossed over to the U.S. in 2014. Between 6 and 10 cat cafes have opened in the last few months in cities like New York and San Diego. This past February Forbes.com even asked ‘Are Cat Cafes America’s Next Big Thing?’
It’s an idea that’s also catching on quickly in Grand Rapids. In just four days since its launch, the Happy Cat Cafe Facebook page has crossed 2,600 likes. “People care about the message and feel very passionately about animal welfare,” Palmurkar says, explaining the page’s success.
The most important component of the cat cafe concept is finding a home for cats that need adopting. The cat cafe acts as a foster and allows people to get to know the felines over time. When a match is made, the partnering shelter facilitates the adoption process. You don’t even need to necessarily purchase a cup of coffee; guests can also reserve times by the hour to spend with the cats for a set price. In places like NYC, reservations are so booked, they must be made weeks or longer in advance.
“I thought it would be a really unique experience for Grand Rapids,” says Palmurkar who has worked as a server and bartender at The B.O.B. and is also in charge of their social media pages. She’s still early in the process of picking a location, but hopes to open by Spring, 2016 at the latest.
“I think it’s really important to do it right in Michigan, because we’ll lead the way for other cities.” The GVSU grad has already been fielding inquires about expansion from other towns around the state, including Ann Arbor.
So will Happy Cat Cafe open the door for other unique coffee lounge ideas around Grand Rapids? “With so much local coffeehouse competition, I think niche cafes are the future,” predicts Palmurkar.
Hey, with a bevy of reptile cafes, owl cafes, goat cafes and even a penguin bar, it’s working for Japan.
Happy Cat Cafe website