When Mac Tabby Cat Café owner Lori Konawalik drove through downtown NoDa a couple of years ago as she was looking for a home for her cat cafe, she knew she would end up there.
She loved the eclectic vibe of the arts district and the unique retailers. “We make sense for NoDa. When people think about NoDa, you expect the arts and you expect something different. We fit all of those categories,” she said. “I told my broker, ‘I’m telling you, I’m going to wind up on this street.’ I felt like this was where I was supposed to be.”
But nothing was available.
Konawalik knew her business idea would thrive in a space that welcomed the unusual. She had only recently had the idea of a cat rescue combined with a coffee bar. She’d told her husband she needed to do something special, something more with her life. When he asked her what she would do if logistics weren’t an issue, she had her answer immediately: “A cool space in the community with a chill vibe, good music and art. A space dedicated to saving lives.”
It was there that the idea of the cat cafe was born, but now logistics were the issue.
Finding nothing available in downtown NoDa, she was also drawn to Area 15. Since 2002, the small-business incubator of Area 15 has been helping local retailers find space to start or grow in its brightly colored storefronts and winding, creative interior spaces. This place turned out to be a perfect first fit because of its commitment to entrepreneurship, giving Konawalik the ability to test out her business model.
And then, when the former photography studio that was nestled upstairs across from Sabor and next door to Curio Craft and Conjure became available in downtown Noda, Konawalik pounced.
After just a one-month turnaround, the space has been completely transformed and is now open for cat and coffee lovers.
Book an hour online or drop in for a half-hour cuddle session with the kittens. There are always 12 cats in the cat room, and all are available for adoption. Once a cat finds a new home, a new cat arrives from Catering to Cats and Dogs rescue group, a nonprofit that rescues cats from high-kill facilities.
If a cat does indeed get 9 lives, that must be at least in part to the idea Konawalik once blurted out to her husband. Since its opening in November of 2017, Mac Tabby has found posh new beginnings for 123 cats — and counting.
If you’d prefer to avoid the temptation of adopting a cat or three, you can always just lounge in the coffee bar. Order a Pure Intentions coffee or cold brew, an espresso drink, a hot tea or Lenny Boy kombucha.
If you’d like a snack, order a Felix’s Empanada: choose from chicken, cheese pizza, bacon, date and goat cheese. Or grab some biscotti, a caramel bar or a cookie.
A retail area includes lots of cat-themed swag — of course — and local art for sale.
Events will include yoga on Monday nights and live music on occasion. Upcoming live music includes: Brandon Berg on Feb. 22, John Sullivan on March 2 and Liam Alone on April 19.
Ultimately, Mac Tabby is more than just cuddles and coffee, Konawalik said. It’s about making connections that last beyond a half-hour or hour-long session.
Recently, Konawalik posted a photo on social media of a cat for adoption that had two different colored eyes. A mother scrolling through Facebook just happened to see it at the right moment — a cat with two different colored eyes was all her daughter had been asking for for her 12th birthday. Within 24 hours, that cat and that 12-year-old were together.
“We change cat lives and human lives,” Konawalik said. “Things like this happen all the time. It’s a magical place.”