MASON, Ohio -- Cat lovers of Greater Cincinnati: I have news of a most excellent nature.
Kitty Brew Cat Cafe -- the first cat cafe in the Tri-State -- opens its doors to the public at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 9.
What? You are not familiar with the cat cafe concept? Allow me to explain: It's a place where you can buy a cup of coffee and maybe a nice muffin and then hang out with a bunch of cats. Some might rub up against your legs or lounge next to you on a couch or sit on your lap. And if you make a love connection, the nice people at Kitty Brew can help you adopt a cat, too.
My colleague Emily Maxwell and I got a preview of Kitty Brew three days before its opening as the cat-loving co-owners Jenni Barrett and Ken Molnar were working to put the finishing touches on the business. Fortunately for us, there were 12 cats already hanging out there to get acclimated to the space.
I'm not going to lie. They weren't even serving coffee or food yet. And it was still awesome! A black and white cat named Pogo even walked on my laptop and typed this all by himself: vl;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;c………………………
But don't be alarmed if you are a cat lover who also is a germ freak. The kitties don't wander around the kitchen or help brew the coffee.
The coffee shop part of the business is in one storefront at 6011 Tylersville Road in Mason. The cat lounge is in the adjacent storefront. The two spaces are in the back part of a strip center development. Look for the big Buffalo Wild Wings at the corner of Snider and Tylersville roads. To find Kitty Brew, go past the tanning salon and down the sloping drive.
Customers will pay $10 to spend 50 minutes in the cat lounge. The coffee shop will serve baked goods and free-trade coffee that can be consumed in the lounge, and Molnar said the food and beverage prices would be comparable to other local coffee shops that sell similar products.
A cat bachelorette party
Barrett and Molnar are limiting the number of people in the cat lounge to 20 at a time. And at this point, there will be no children younger than seven allowed, although they're planning to arrange times that younger children can be part of the fun with their parents.
You can make reservations on the Kitty Brew website or on its Facebook page. And reservations are a good idea. Kitty Brew will allow walk-ins if there is space in the lounge, but some days already are booking up, Barrett said. She even has a bachelorette party booked. And more than 20,000 people had seen Barrett's latest Kitty Brew Facebook post in the first 15 hours it was online.
Clearly, cat lovers of the Tri-State are laser-focused on this business. (Anyone who has ever used a laser pointer to play with a cat will get that joke.)
Nonetheless, opening Kitty Brew hasn't been easy.
"It took us getting told no a lot," Barrett said.
"We've been told no by banks, by owners of properties, by townships, the health department," Molnar added.
But the city of Mason welcomed the couple and their business idea. In fact, Sherry Taylor, the president and CEO of the Mason Deerfield Chamber, sent me this statement about the business:
"Businesses like Kitty Brew can make a positive impact in people's lives by offering emotional support through the connection of the animals. Going to a cat café is a perfect option for those who love the animals but can't own one due to busy lifestyles and living circumstances. For those looking to adopt, this is a new approach that allows for more observation and engagement with the animals in a comfortable setting."
And Kitty Brew's cat lounge certainly is comfortable.
There are cushy chairs and couches all around and carpet-covered cat hotels for the kitties to climb.
It doesn't stink either.
Barrett and Molnar have rows of litter boxes in a separate, ventilated room with a small cat door installed into the regular people door for easy feline access. Volunteers will scoop and double bag whatever the cats leave behind throughout the day, Barrett said. Plus the cats at Kitty Brew are on a dry food diet, so there's no wet cat food smell either.
A business with a mission
Barrett and Molnar are hoping that Kitty Brew is such a big success that they can expand with additional locations eventually.
While Molnar still is working another full-time job, Barrett left her job with Butler County Children Services to focus full-time on Kitty Brew.
They had 80 people apply for jobs with the business and hired eight to help them run the place.
"It was hard," Barrett said. "There were so many sweet, really cool, fun people."
And they all loved cats, just like Barrett and Molnar do.
Barrett has spent years rescuing cats, fostering kittens and helping unwanted felines find forever homes.
Now she and Molnar have invested $25,000 of their own money into Kitty Brew and got an $85,000 loan to cover the costs that their savings didn't. They have an active GoFundMe campaign, too, to help raise money for the ongoing expenses Kitty Brew will have as it gets going.
They're believers in the business idea, of course, but they also see it as a way to help more cats find loving homes and support the Animal Friends Humane Society and other shelters that are helping to supply the cats for Kitty Brew.
"I love them because they're all so different," Barrett said of the cats. "I kind of like that they're independent. I kind of like when they're finicky. And I love when they're sassy."
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.