Later this month, the space tucked between Matt's Big Breakfast and Cobra Arcade Bar at 147 East Garfield Street will be the colorful new location of La Gattara Cat Cafe, where you can sip a latte while an adoptable rescue cat purrs against your leg.
So far, the modern coffee lounge and boutique room are finished, hung with colorful cat portraits. They're just two of the exciting new additions to the new location, which will also host a private party room and a huge, open play area in the cat room. (Though the coffee bar is open and serving, there's a not a firm date yet when the entire space will be up and running.)
“It has that destination attraction vibe,” said Seay, “People just walk by all the time.”
Along with foot traffic, and beautiful downtown murals, Pruitt and Seay say they’re grateful for the perks they didn’t have before, like storage space, a washer and dryer, and their own parking lot.
The past year has been a tumultuous one for La Gattara.
Pruitt was scheduled to renew her Tempe lease in April 2020, but she had some issues with the location, and as the pandemic took hold and businesses were forced to close, she decided not to stay.
"In the Tempe location, there was not really walk-in traffic," says co-owner Carrie Seay. (The space was hard to find in the back of a nondescript retail complex.)
Seay, a cat behavior consultant who Pruitt knew professionally, talked Pruitt out of renewing at the east Valley location. Associates and friends helped her move at the last minute.
“And then, as [she and Seay] talked more, I was like, 'Do you want to come on as a business partner?'” Pruitt says.
Though the initial plan was to find a new location in Tempe, the pair eventually broadened their search. They landed on the Garfield Street space, and hosted a Kickstarter to raise donations to help with the opening costs.
But by January 2021, it only raised $13,000 out of the $50,000 goal, which means La Gattara didn't get the money.
However, Pruitt says she’s thankful for the cat cafe fans and the donations they’ve received outside of Kickstarter. Every bit helps. (You can donate here.)
La Gattara does a lot of work for animals in the community, in addition to finding loving homes for hundreds of cats. The cafe takes in cats from hoarding situations and nurses them back to health, and fosters abandoned kittens.
It's even advocated for legislation: When Matthew Meisner of Tempe was shot walking down the street last summer, his three cats were left in his apartment for days. Relatives weren't allowed in to get the animals because they were legally considered property.
“We helped pass a law called Matthew's Law, so that someone can come right in and get the pets," Pruitt says. (They've also applied for 501c3 status, which should come through this month.)
Now that La Gattara is downtown, Pruitt and Seay want to hop right in the help the cats in their neighborhood; they've consulted with a veterinarian on their board to offer TNR (trap, neuter, return) services for the local strays.
“We have a lot of grand plans for helping the community,” Seay says.
But Pruitt and Seay still made time to learn how to make coffee. The cafe at La Gattara serves Passport products, and rescue cat Charlie Chaplin, its unofficial mascot, has been participating in the process by choosing the coffee of the month.
“We pick six roasts and put them on pieces of paper,” Pruitt says. "Whichever one he hits first is going to be the one.”
And how is the coffee? Pruitt made a latte from the Cherry Vanilla roast picked for February. It was aromatic, creamy, and had the right amount of flavoring — not too sweet or too strong. Just purrfect.
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