Christina Ha didn’t have cats growing up. She also wasn’t a baker. But both of those things have changed. Early next month the publicist turned macaron baker plans to open New York’s first permanent cat café.
The new café, Meow Parlour, will celebrate her love of felines. And, because every good cat café needs cat-shaped macarons, there will be a Meow Parlour Pâtisserie across the street so that you can pick up a little something to bring with you the next time you visit Mr. Socks.
We sat down to chat with Ha recently in the East Village location of her cat-free bakery, Macaron Parlour.
Why did you decide to open the Meow Parlour?
It was in part because of the Japanese cat parlors. I tried to get into the New York City pop-up this past spring, but I couldn’t. I was the crazy lady standing outside the window looking in. But seeing all those people who loved cats, this is an awesome opportunity to see these cats get adopted and find forever homes. It’s fulfilling a need for individuals and it’s fulfilling a need for cats.
How will the Meow Parlour work?
There will be an opportunity to make reservations online, and an opportunity to walk in. But I don’t want to make people leave when their reservation is over because sometimes you just need to hug a cat for three hours. It’s designed so that we’re not taking too many appointments without it being at a capacity to overwhelm our cats.
We’re going to charge $8 an hour, and you can book time in half-hour increments. We’ll have room for 12 cats and a limit of about 20 people. The café will be closed on Wednesdays so that the cats can nap and take a break.
Most cat cafés don’t allow children inside, but ours will. We’ll have set times for children under 10 and their chaperones. We’re planning activities for the kids, since one of the best ways to engage a cat is to ignore it. We’ll have coloring, blowing bubbles, things that move, which cats are intrigued by.
Who is Meow Parlour’s ideal customer?
People who love animals, and the cats that need to be adopted. Our priority is to focus on the well-being of the cats and to help them get homes, but we’re also catering to customers. We have to make both sides happy to make that connection, akin to: You like Fluffy, Fluffy needs a home. At a shelter you don’t get to interact with animals. This is an opportunity to make it happen. We’re working very closely with KittyKind, our adoption partner, to be sure to give us cats that others have passed over. Once the cat is adopted, they’ll work with KittyKind for any follow-ups that are needed.
What did your friends and family think when you told them you were opening Meow Parlour?
Truthfully? I haven’t told my parents. It just hasn’t come up in conversation. My sister is always begging me, ‘If I don’t do well on the MCATs, then I’m going to go to vet school.’ My younger sister is really confused by it. My older brother said, ‘You’re crazy but I’m really excited for you.’ Simon’s (Ha’s husband) parents are anti-pet, but the surprising thing is they’ve been very nice. They’ve seen what having cats has done for our lives. We’ve become more efficient, better business owners and we’re delegating more so we can go home and play with Mr. Socks. (That is the real name of their first cat, who they rescued near their home.)
What is most exciting for you about Meow Parlour?
I’m excited for that moment when you open the doors and you see people come in and it’s like, This is it, this is what I want. When I opened this (East Village) location people were like, ‘Thank god you’re not a bar.’ At our location on the Upper West Side, there weren’t many bakeries, and people said, ‘Thank you for giving us a place where we can get coffee in the morning.’ People are thanking us for doing something good. I have my fingers crossed that we’re going to get a lot of thank-yous.
So, for the cat lovers out there, need any employees?
When we first announced the news, we got like 60 emails from people asking to work here. But what we’re asking employees to do is not just to play with cats, its also dealing with people and cleaning up poop. We’ll ask our current employees here first, and for anyone else we’ll make it difficult to apply so that we’re sure people are serious.
Interested in being one of the first to give the purr-shop a test run? Check out the Meow Parlour’s Kickstarter campaign. Anyone backing the campaign will get first dibs on meeting the cats. The Meow Parlour will be located at 46 Hester Street on the Lower East Side, and will open its doors December 15.
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