As I entered the Purr Cup Cafe, two guests were taking home Jared, a beautiful and playful long-haired cat who has been a “superstar” in the cat room according to Sarah Newton, Purr Cup Cafe’s owner. She snapped a polaroid of Jared and his new human family, then Sarah and her co-founder Arthur Hailey gave Jared a quick and loving goodbye. The door to the cat room displayed countless photos like the one Sarah just took. I sat down with Sarah and Arthur and talked about cats, coffee and the success of the very first cat cafe in Raleigh.
What inspired you to open the Purr Cup cafe?
“We love cats! I'm the type of person who wants to do something I care about…and I really care about cats,” said Newton. After a couple of pop-ups around the area that attracted long lines and news stations to their business, they were certain about Raleigh’s love for felines. Sarah and Arthur explained that they “...were naïvely confident; we believed we could do something and somehow we pulled it off.”
Your business is not only a unique experience for guests but a wonderful opportunity for cats! Can you tell me about the process Purr Cup Cafe goes through to take in the cats?
Newton explained that “all the cats are from our partner rescue Safe Haven for Cats…they pull a lot of cats from kill shelters, strays, surrenders and [they] look at the cats from their facilities to see who might be a good fit here.”
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
“We opened Oct. 1, 2020, so we’ve never not been open during COVID-19. In a way we didn’t have to adjust to anything. Usually there would be six spaces per hour [but] we’re doing it as private party booking…it's a nice intimate experience,” Newton said. As people become more comfortable and receive their vaccinations they "are going to shift back to the standard model …but we will always have the option for booking [the cat room] just for your group.”
What can guests expect from their experience at the cafe?
“Sometimes we have a whole group of playful cats and sometimes they’re all sleepyheads,” Hailey said. “This is their home, you get to come be guests in their home and maybe fall in love with them!” To visit the cat room, Hailey suggests “[booking] online and [filling] out a waiver…and when you get here you pay what you can, we suggest $10 a person.” Additionally, the cafe is available for those who want a drink, snack, beer and wine. “We always try to come up with fun, special drinks that, if you’re vegan, you can't usually get…everything is plant-based here,” said Newton.
Aside from offering quality cat time to your guests, your shop also serves coffee! What’s your current favorite beverage you're serving?
Newton stated that her favorite is “a lavender matcha latte; someone said it tasted like fruity pebbles and it does.” Hailey chimed in and said “coffee drink-wise, I think our most popular is a Tortie mocha, which is like a turtle mocha…caramel, chocolate, coffee, milk, whipped cream and a caramel drizzle. It's very decadent.”
What’s the best part of your job?
“The cats! It's really nice after we close. I'll come to sit in [the cat room] and just read, sit with them and take pictures of them…and obviously [for] the adoptions. Seeing them go home and how happy people are makes it all worth it,” Newton said. “We did it for the cats. We’re closed Monday and Tuesday and I usually find myself up here hanging out in the [cat] room,” Hailey added.
The Purr Cup Cafe is truly a hidden gem. Located right outside of downtown Raleigh, it is a quaint and bright store. Newton and Hailey have created a sanctuary for shelter cats and given them a chance at finding a forever home in an environment catered to cats. Jared, the cat I saw get adopted, was their 87th adoption since opening the cafe in October; their cafe has drawn a community together, homed cats and supported local charities. I highly suggest a visit to Purr Cup Cafe, but I must warn you, you might just leave with a four-legged friend!
By Angelina Morin, Contributing Writer