It all started with an article about cat cafés in America. “I read it, thought what a great concept it was combining the two, cats and coffee, so I went home and told my husband about it,” says Kelli Steward, owner and founder along with husband Stephen of Alabama’s only cat café, Gatos and Beans. The two researched some more and then visited Java Cats and Happy Tabby cat cafés in Atlanta.
“And from there, things just began to happen. We entered a competition much like Shark Tank, put on by REV Birmingham and — long and short — ended up taking second place,” she says. They partnered with Kitty Kat Haven and Rescue, found the perfect building, and about a year and a half (and many trials and tribulations) later, they opened Gatos and Beans.
“I always ask people when they come in, ‘Are you here for coffee or cats and coffee?’ Most people are there for both. But if not, that is OK because we are a full-service coffee shop as well as cat adoption center,” Kelli explains. “We have all the things you would expect at a coffee shop — drip coffee, espurrsos, cat poccinos, Maine Coon mochas, etc. Our adoption center is full of cat-friendly shelves, ramps, bridges, towers — all the things kitties love to play on. Many beds for their comfort, and tables and chairs for yours.” Gatos and Beans also offers cat yoga and will soon have movie night once or twice a month. Down the road, it looks to collaborate with local artists to help fundraise for Kitty Kat Haven and other local rescues.
Kelli — who is always around animals as a receptionist for a local veterinary clinic — is proud of the help they provide to the overwhelming population of cats and kittens in the area, plus having a hand in making families and animals come together. “Rescue is not new to me,” she says, “Twenty-three years in the veterinary business — rescue is just part of it. But now I have a home in between homes for some deserving felines.”
For the future, Kelli and Stephen will focus on facilitating more adoptions and educating the community about spay and neuter and trap-and-release protocols for feral colonies. They want to expand Gatos and Beans with a catio to give the cats and patrons a larger space to hang out. “Running a cat café is a dream come true that until a short time ago I didn’t even know was my dream,” she says.
Want more? See @GatosandBeans on Facebook and Instagram, and at gatosandbeans.com.