By Carlee Francis, Studio M staff //
Three local couples plan to open cat cafes in the coming months, officially bringing the coffee shop phenomenon to Middle Tennessee.
And what, exactly, is a cat cafe?
Essentially, it’s supervised indoor pet rental. The concept is to have two separate spaces: a space to make coffee and a space to play with the kitties, almost as if they were two different businesses. Customers can pay a cover fee, typically at an hourly rate, if they wish to interact with the cats.
Cat cafes originated in Taiwan and Japan. In the United States, they often partner with local animal shelters to help increase adoptions.
“(It was) the most awesome thing that I’ve ever heard of in my entire life,” Maegan Phan said of the first time she heard of cat cafes. Today, Phan co-owns Mewsic Kitty Cafe, along with her husband, Thein Phan.
Maegan and Thein have a location in the Woodbine neighborhood in Nashville and plan to open their cat cafe by summer 2018.
Thein and Maegan Phan are the co-owners of Mewsic Kitty Cafe, a cat cafe coming soon to Nashville. Photo courtesy of Maegan Phan.
“We love the opportunity to take everything that’s awesome and kind of quirky about Nashville and put a feline twist on it,” Maegan said.
Two couples from Murfreesboro plan to open their own cat cafes by early 2018 as well.
Taura Byrd and her husband, Curtis Byrd, plan to open a cat cafe early 2018 in downtown Murfreesboro called Catfeine.
“My husband and I work full time, so we’re doing this in our evenings and weekends,” said Taura. “It’s a lot of work, but we’ve had tremendous support.”
Taura and Curtis Byrd are the co-owners of the soon to come cat cafe, Catfeine. They hope to open early 2018 in Murfreesboro. Photo courtesy of Taura Byrd.
Taura and Curtis, are cat lovers who decided to create a Facebook page for a Murfreesboro cat cafe to see if there was interest. They created the page in August and now have over 3,000 likes.
“It’s just been an outpouring of support and love,” Taura said, “People have sent me messages every day supporting the idea.”
The couple has been working with Rutherford County Cat Rescue to help foster cats for several years.
Catnips, a cat cafe coming soon to Smyrna. Photo courtesy of Kelly Pelchat.
Murfreesboro couple Keith and Kelly Pelchat plan to open a cat cafe in Smyrna off of Old Nashville Highway called Catnips. They are aiming to open early 2018.
“The concept has taken off… (people) are loving it, and when you talk about it, they get these big smiles on their faces. There’s no way I would stop doing this. If just the idea makes people happy, then can you imagine them walking through those doors, how that’s going to make people feel?” Kelly said.
After Hurricane Katrina, Kelly began volunteering for local animal shelters.
“I wanted to give back,” she said. “I found PAWS, and being the pet lover that I am, that’s perfect.”
Taura, Maegan and Kelly have had coffee meetings and stay in contact to help one another out.
“We would much rather support each other than try to be competitors,” Taura said. “There’s nothing but good intentions here, and we have the same heart for the cats.”
Maegan and Thein have hosted some pop-up shops in Nashville to give the city a taste of what the cafe will be like.
“It was a little bit of a surprise with how well it did. When you create something and people enjoy it and embrace it, it really means the world and we’re so thankful for that,” Maegan said.
The Phans have been working with Nashville Cat Rescue during the pop-ups and plan to continue to do so in their future brick-and-mortar cafe.
“We have a pretty close partnership with Maegan and Thein,” said Anna Talaga, Nashville Cat Rescue adoption counselor and foster mother. “I think that this will give us a little bit more visibility, (and) I definitely think it will help drive up adoptions.”
Maegan has been volunteering for a few years at Nashville Cat Rescue. From the first pop-up alone, Mewsic Kitty Cafe and Nashville Cat Rescue were able to give seven kitties new homes.
“I think it’s great for people to see the cats in a more relaxed environment instead of a shelter-like environment, because many times, our cats don’t show very well,” said Kim Kmiec, co-founder of Nashville Cat Rescue.“They’re scared, they’re hiding under their beds, hiding in their litter boxes. This was a place for them to get to be themselves a little more naturally.”
Carlee Francis is a junior majoring in Visual Communications at Middle Tennessee State University.
Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
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