In all unfairness, when I first read about Mac Tabby Cat Café opening on North Davidson Street this winter, all I could think was: “That is absolutely horrifying.”
Cats freak me out. Hugely because I grew up with an allergy to cat hair that conditioned me to regard them as nasty critters (self-preservation, people). And also just because the few cats I’ve encountered have seemed devious and creepy. Those slitted eyes… that moan-like purring…
So I assumed Mac Tabby would just be a worse version of the only dog bar I’ve been to, which stank like a dirty vet’s office and was wild with overexcited dogs who kept getting their wet paws on my arms while I sat there sipping wine and wondering why exactly their paws were wet. Without really wanting to know.
The concept of paying $12 an hour to sit in a “cat lounge” with a beverage while I got swarmed and clawed by cats was less appealing.
But Mac Tabby, which opened Dec. 16, 2017, is backed by a good cause, since the café serves as a foster home for cats rescued from shelters — before they can get euthanized — by local nonprofit Catering to Cats and Dogs. And I can always use a good cup of Lenny Boy Brewing Co. kombucha on a rainy Sunday.
I survived the experience. This is my story.
I pulled up to Area 15 and sloshed through the rain to the second level of the cluster of buildings, swung open the door and sidled past an excited-looking gaggle of girls. I walked into the little coffee shop area of the café — a hallway separates the coffee area and the walled-off cat lounge.
It took a mere five minutes to realize there is nothing to survive here, beyond my cat allergy. Which, I found, is still rather powerful.
The coffee shop space has a couple of tables and chairs, walls filled with local art (all for sale), shelves filled with local products (like cookies by A Smart Cookie LLC) and business cards, and a counter serving kombucha, hot cocoa and Pure Intentions Coffee.
I signed a waiver declaring I’d respect the cats, then was ushered through a gate and into the cat lounge with my kombucha (and a lid) with the other people who signed up for the hour-long time slot.
I slid onto a white plastic chair to get my bearings. And suddenly everything felt in sync with any other artsy coffee shop I’d expect to find in the NoDa area. The air was filled with the sweet sounds of folksy music (seemingly clean due to a diffuser and air purifier, I’m told). More local art popped on the walls (only a few pieces were cat-themed), plants and white lights hung from the ceiling and patrons sat around on chairs and on the floor holding coffees, smiling and laughing.
The only oddities: These people were all reaching for, cuddling or playing with the 12 cats that subtly roamed the room. And everyone seemed to be in a joy-filled trance.
This space is good for people watching, and cat watching. It’s also good for encountering a creatively minded person, just like I’d expect at any other independent coffee shop in town.
Lori Konawalik, the local wedding photographer who opened Mac Tabby, sat down next to me with a black cat (I didn’t touch it — the allergy) and said she got into this business when she was exploring what else her life could hold. She has a career, kids, a husband and a history of rescued cats.
“I started feeling like there was something more,” she said.
With Mac Tabby, she is able to help cats get adopted (their first 30 days of business led to the adoption of 28 cats alone), and she is able to support the creative people in Charlotte, who, she says, “paint outside the lines.” Those are the local brewers, the local roasters, the bakers, the artists, the yogis.
Yes, Mac Tabby has weekly yoga and art classes with the cats.
Starting in March, the first Friday of the month will bring local musicians in for live music, as well.
As for the cats, Konawalik said, “This is basically their living room.”
She thinks the adoption rate is so high because the cats are so relaxed in this space.
I was so relaxed in this space, with my kombucha and the music, the people watching and the cat watching. I wholeheartedly would have stayed longer if my nose wasn’t dripping.
Mac Tabby Cat Café: 516 E. 15th St., Suite 10D