You would think opening a café full of felines would be easy. But as Melissa Pruitt has discovered, the process is a lot like, well, herding cats.
"We looked at 30 or 40 different places, but a lot of people didn't really get the concept," Pruitt says. "We had one place locked down, and the [building's] owner liked the idea, but then he said, 'Wait, are the cats going to sleep here? I don't think we can do that.' That's been a huge struggle."
It was a year and a half ago that Pruitt made formal plans to open La Gattara Cat Café & Wine Bar, a concept modeled on the popular Asian trend and featuring adoptable strays. It's been more than a year that Pruitt launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, receiving more than $18,000. But after a failed business partnership and lots of fruitless searching, Pruitt wasn't able to make her dream come true by the end of 2015, or even 2016.
Now, though, Pruitt has secured a location: 1301 East University Drive, in Tempe. The floors have been laid and the building is being renovated. Pruitt will soon meet with an architect to draft the final plans, and she expects the interior to come together quickly.
"We decided we couldn't open in March, but we're looking at April 1," Pruitt says. "People said, 'You can't open on April Fools' Day!' And I said, 'We can totally open on April Fools' Day, because nobody thought this would happen.'"
Pruitt is still looking for last-minute investors, but the extra cash is no longer the life-or-death situation it once was.
"We're going to open no matter what," she says. "That money was so we could get our liquor and wine license."
To celebrate the occasion, Pruitt has crowdsourced a satellite project: "Arizona's Men & Cats 2018 Calendar." If that sounds like a calendar full of photos of sexy local hunks cradling their favorite fur balls, you are correct. Pruitt got the idea from a calendar featuring male celebrities posing with their pets.
"There are so many people who have responded to it," Pruitt says with a laugh. "I think we're going to do a new one every year."
For more information about La Gattara and its official opening date, visit the café's Facebook page.