Calico and Siamese: These are commonly known cat breeds but you’ll also hear them being ordered at the coffee counter at The Café Meow. The warm drinks are just one place in the café where you’ll find your feline friends, and it’s all the brain-child of co-owners Jessica Burge and Danielle Rasmussen.
“I was looking for something to do as an entrepreneurial [venture],” Burge says. With a background in multimedia and web development she was looking into the technology route, but she also wanted to do something that would benefit the community. “The New York City cat café popped up and I was like, ‘This is it! This is what I want to do,’” she says. “I’d been involved with cats since I was very young and I knew that Danielle here was also a big cat lover. She’s knowledgeable and had experience working at rescues,” so the duo that went to high school together in St. Paul became business partners.
On one side of the café you’ll find the cat lounge where furry felines roam in a separate room, and on the other is the sweet smell of caffeine and cat-themed treats. For the food side of the business, they had a lot of help from local business owners who became mentors. Dan Swenson-Klatt, owner of Butter Bakery in South Minneapolis and Rasmussen’s middle school teacher, helped them go from business idea to actual business. St. Paul’s Bootstrap Coffee Roasters owner Micah Svejda was another mentor, whose coffee can now be found at The Café Meow.
That local angle is intentional, and you’ll see it sprinkled throughout their café. Coffee from Bootstrap, and from Minneapolis they provide T-Rex Cookies, FoxCakes and Northern Lights Tea, “and we also work with My Sister’s Sweets to do all our syrups and sauces [for the drinks],” Burge says.
It’s not just about being local. “One of our goals is to be as sustainable as we possibly can be,” Burge says. “There are definitely limits at the beginning that we learned, because we don’t have the ability to do them yet. But we can work toward them.” They’re off to a good start with the organic and fair trade coffee and teas and locally sourced goods. “Even our merchandise is locally sourced,” Burge says. “People come up and say, ‘Hey I make this cat-related item, can I sell it here?’ And we say ‘Yes, let’s figure this out!’”
But if you came for a beverage, here’s a sampling of Burge and Rasmussen’s favorites. “One of the drinks people speak about the most is the Calico [mocha with coconut and caramel]. It’s been one of our specials since the beginning,” Burge says. “One of my favorites is the Cat Grass – it’s a matcha iced latte with peppermint,” she says. It’s a spring special but they will make any special if it’s asked for, regardless of whether it’s currently on the menu.
“I really like the Sassy Cat,” Rasmussen adds. The mocha with cayenne pepper is the perfect drink to warm you up this winter. And if a warm drink won’t do the trick, try some cat cuddles.
FINDING FOREVER HOMES
As a foster home for cats and a café, The Café Meow the first of its kind in the state which meant it wasn’t an overnight process. “It took a long time to figure out how to do it,” Rasmussen says. They met with people from Caring for Cats and Animal Ark who helped answer some of Burge and Rasmussen’s basic questions: “What are the basic protocols, what are we going to need, what do we need to plan for,” Rasmussen says.
The model they landed on is made to both provide some fun and entertainment for guests and help find forever homes for the cats: Enter the café and order your Sassy Cat or Cat Grass, then spend some time in the adjacent cat lounge. “It’s a paid experience,” Burge says. It’s $10 per person for one hour, and there are between 10 and 15 rescue cats in the room at a time. Walk-ins are welcome but if you’re coming with a few friends they recommend making a quick reservation on their website to ensure there’s room.
The cats come from No Kitten Left Behind Minnesota and Rough Start Rescue and, when this interview was conducted in the fall, 50 cats had been adopted from the café. “There’s no limit or goal that we’re trying to hit,” Burge says. “We just want to make sure they go into good homes.
More than Cats and Coffee
Check out these specials and events at The Café Meow:
2-6 p.m. every Tuesday-Thursday, spend $3 for 15 minutes in the cat lounge.
Every 1st Thursday of the month play bingo in the cat café! Arrive before 6:30 p.m. to join in.
Every 2nd Tuesday of the month test your cat knowledge. Trivia starts at 6:30 p.m. but come early to guarantee a spot.