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Catching Up with Buffalo’s Heralded Cat Café

When Buffalo’s first cat café opened this past August, the plan was to get started by serving up some coffee, and letting customers interact with the house cats. Since that time, no one could have expected just how popular a cat café would be in WNY – Purrfect Cat Café & Gallery has garnered a commanding presence on social media alone, with 6,500 strong Facebook following and almost 2,000 Instagram followers, according to writer and cat fancier Nicole Pope, who caught up with business owner Jessica Brandon to discuss the sudden success of the unusual and locally heralded animal-friendly enterprise.

Two years ago when animal lover Jessica Brandon was traveling through Europe she came across her first cat café in Scotland. Since then, she has travelled to more than 20 of these establishments around the world, all the while gathering ideas for a feline-friendly business of her own.

For those who haven’t sipped on a cat-puccino in the company of a calico, cat cafés are typically small restaurants that serve speciality coffee and baked goods while partnering with local shelters to find homes for cats. Visitors book a session in advance and pay an hourly fee to enter the café where they can interact and play with the cats.

The phenomenon started in Japan and has since spread throughout Europe and even as far as the United States. However, Buffalo, New York’s cat café market was pretty much wide-open until Brandon decided to open Purrfect Café & Gallery this past August.

“I knew that when I went back home I wanted to open a business,” Brandon told me. “I’ve always had a love for animals in general, and I thought, ‘Why not open up a cat café in Buffalo?’”

Brandon started with securing a prime North Buffalo location for her business on Hertel Avenue in November 2017. After obtaining a special permit from the City of Buffalo for the project she began renovating the space herself.

“I did a lot of the construction myself,” Brandon commented. “I was there at the café every day framing walls, putting in insulation, putting in the floor.”

To date Brandon has opened the cat room to the public and is putting the final touches on the restaurant side, set to open within the next two months.

Ryan Walser, Brandon’s fiancé, is Purrfect’s Executive Chef. Brandon stressed that she and Walser want to have a menu that includes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. Some of the offerings will include soups, salads, and sandwiches along with coffee and tea. Walser will even have a weekly vegan burger night at the restaurant. And yes, the menu will be cat themed!

Brandon has also partnered with Blackbird Sweets, another local business, to supply the café with homemade baked goods.

“I love pairing up with other female-owned businesses. Both of our partners, Ten Lives Club and Blackbird Sweets, are owned by women,” mentioned Brandon.

I love pairing up with other female-owned businesses.

The space itself is adorned with plenty of cat trees, a maze of shelves on the walls for the cats to climb on, and funky furniture for humans to rest their feet. Cat-themed artwork, for sale from local artists, hang on the walls, and felt mice are batted about customers’ feet.

This is a paradise for both cats and cat lovers alike. At this time, Purrfect is home to four resident cats (Homer, Vex, Ashi, and Wanda), and about ten adoptable cats at any given time. They range in age from kittens all the way to senior cats.

The cats find their way to the café from the partnership Brandon established with Ten Lives Club, a non-kill shelter serving Western New York and Erie county. Volunteers from Ten Lives Club, and Brandon herself, choose cats that may have less of a chance of being adopted from a traditional shelter, and bring them to Purrfect.

“If they’re having a harder time getting one of their kitties adopted from one of their satellite locations, I love taking those cats at Purrfect. I’m honored to be working with Ten Lives. They do some really great work,” Brandon said.

Brandon uses social media to give the cats some much needed exposure, to the delight of the cafe’s 6,500 strong Facebook following and almost 2,000 Instagram followers.

After recognizing that many visitors were coming to spend time with the resident cats, rather than to adopt, Brandon started offering events like yoga with cats, craft nights, children’s hour for kids under 8, and even tarot card reading with cats. All of the events fill up quickly, but weekly cat yoga is the most popular.

“People love cat yoga and the cats love it too, because you’re down on their level. The cats climb all over the mats, they climb on you, they wrestle with each other – it’s adorable,” said Brandon.

Since the August, Purrfect has helped find homes for 12 cats, averaging out to one adoption per week. Muggle, who was adopted from Purrfect last month by Dan Crowe, was number 8.

“Muggle wasn’t there when I first went to the café, and I actually thought about adopting two other cats before I found him,” Crowe said. “I just loved Muggle. He has what looks like a little mustache on his nose and he’s very friendly.”

For Brandon, these moments are what her business is all about.

“That has to be my favorite part,” confided Brandon. “Just seeing these cats find their forever home and seeing the joy it brings to the people adopting them.

Purrfect Café & Gallery | 1507-1509 Hertel Avenue | Buffalo NY | (716) 322-7358 | Facebook

Photos courtesy Brandon

Written by BRo Guest Authors

BRo Guest Authors

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