Prepare to socialize over coffee, kitties at Gem City Catfé

 

Photo: (left) Kitty-face meringues to be served at the Gem City Catfé and (above) Hugh from the Humane Society, which will have cats up for adoption

By Paula Johnson

It’s fitting that the soon-to-be-open Gem City Catfé is located in the St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood—the heavenly nature of cats is, of course, what I am referring to. That in combination with a café combines two of my greatest obsessions: kitties and socializing. The Catfé is the brainkitten of Karin Gudal and partner Sabrina Cox. They met while working at SICSA, the animal welfare and pet adoption center in Kettering.

“Working at SICSA, I saw that euthanasia rates are not what we would like,” Gudal says. “Adoption is so important. I wanted to find a way to help encourage people to adopt.” This led to the cat café idea in July 2016, and in January both women left SICSA to work full-time on launching the Catfé.

Gudal has ample experience with her own real estate and construction business, while Cox worked on SICSA’s marketing and events, so their combined skill set has allowed the project to progress relatively quickly. A kickstarter campaign helped with start-up, raising more than $37,000 to date.

So where did the idea of combining cats and caffeine originate? The term cat café has been officially recognized in the online edition of the Oxford dictionary since 2015. The world’s first, Cat Garden, opened its doors in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1998. Though the origin of cat cafés is in Taiwan, the concept blossomed in Japan, with the first one opening in Osaka in 2004 with countless others quickly following. At this point they are in 27 countries (even Estonia has one!).

Though that’s only 13.1067 percent of the world’s 206 countries, I still see (or will conspire to bring about) a trend toward global cat café domination. As does Gudal. She points to the signs nearby: there’s Eat, Purr, Love in Columbus and Kitty Brew in Mason, Ohio. She’s also visited a few in New York to research the concept. Her favorites? Meow Parlour, Brooklyn Cat Cafe, and Koneko. “Koneko’s got a sophisticated, cool space and a sake bar!” she says.

I mention a cat pub in England, and ask if the Catfé has any plans to serve alcohol. “The laws are really prohibitive, unfortunately,” she admits.

Which led me to my next inquiry about Health Department regulations. “That was a funny phone call,” Gudal laughs. “They had no idea what we were talking about.” But after some examination, it was determined that a complete separation of the cat and café bar areas would be required.

The design of the space is such that patrons can visit and not interact with cats at all if they don’t want to. “We really wanted to be sensitive to people with allergies. We have installed three completely separate HVAC systems for each area. You won’t even be breathing the same air in the non-cat areas. We are the only café I’m aware of to have done that.”

But what about serving food? “First of all, there’s a completely separate area for our food and espresso service. And the food we serve will be prepackaged before we get it,” she says. “We found a wonderful local licensed cottage baker who is doing the baking, a lot of which is gluten-free and delicious! Our coffee is Boston Stoker, so it’s local too.”

What Gudal is most excited about are the kitty-face meringues that can be eaten or substituted for whipped cream in a latte. Gudal is also excited about the programs that will take place upstairs in the space. They will offer workshops on cat behavior and how to construct winter shelter boxes for outdoor cats, as well as other animal-related topics. There will also be photography workshops (Gudal will be teaching these herself), sewing, knitting and crocheting, and ceramics classes in conjunction with an art studio. The work of local artists will be featured on the walls of the space, as well. Rentals for parties and events will also be offered.

It’s taken a great deal of restraint to have written over 600 words without getting around to the most important thing of all—the cats. What kind? How many? How much? Gudal fills me in.

“The Catfé will be hosting about 10 cats that will already be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and micro-chipped. We’ll be following the Humane Society adoption guidelines. For instance, if someone has other animals, we require proof of their veterinary care. If the person is renting, we contact the landlord to verify that pets are welcome. And the flat $50 fee goes straight to the Humane Society,” she continues.

“But we are not just for adoption—we encourage everyone to come and socialize with the cats! You don’t have to take one home with you.”

The Gem City Catfé is anticipated to open late this summer in the St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood. For more information, please visit GemCityCatfe.com/index.html.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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