Christina Ha, owner of Macaron Parlour and co-owner of Meow Parlour, has always loved to learn. She attended Columbia University, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Institute of Culinary Education Pastry & Baking Program, and the Culinary Management Program. Once a stereotypical career-changer, she finally decided to open Macaron Parlour on Ludlow Street. Christina was content with her husband, her small patisserie and her very loyal pastry employee, Emily Legrand. Although she always had a hunch she would own her own business, she never envisioned running a cat café and bakery. Until her first experience rescuing an animal, she thought she was allergic to cats and had only seen about five up close.
Mr. Socks changed it all. While walking home from work every day one summer, Christina and her husband would spot a small cat that looked hungry and very hot. One day, they decided to bring food to the cat but it was not there, so she gave up and went back to her apartment. Her sister later went down with food, and told Christina she had found Mr. Socks and was playing with him outside. Christina ran down and quickly discovered that it was not the real Mr. Socks, but she did not care. The cat was submissive and clearly needed a home, so she scooped him up and gave him a permanent place to stay. Her husband named him Mr. Socks and Christina realized she was not allergic to cats. Mr. Socks is now one of three rescue cats and one ‘foster fail’ cat. Now, Christina says, ‘Mr. Socks dictates a lot of my life.’ Even though he is not the most loving cat, he was the first she adopted, and therefore the two have a special bond. If he gets upset about something, he knows how to make his owner feel the same way (by not using his litter box).
Because of Mr. Socks, Christina started to fantasize about opening a cat café and quickly started to conduct research and make a business plan. Her husband did not believe the idea was serious at first, but her loyal employee Emily Legrand, who has visited cat cafés around the globe, said she was interested in investing and being a partner in the business. The two started to look at spaces around Macaron Parlour, so both businesses could work together. They decided the Macaron Parlour would sell cat-inspired baked goods and could serve as a ‘waiting room’ for those who had a reservation for Meow Parlour.
Christina never thought she would be the first of anything. When she found out she would be opening the first cat café in America, she wondered why it hadn’t been done before. The two entrepreneurs quickly moved into a space and created a popular, homey hangout spot from the get-go. At Meow Parlour, you can either sign up for a 6-month or yearly subscription, reserve a specific time to visit online, or walk in and check for immediate availability. Reservations open up two months in advance and range from 30 minutes to five-hour slots, with specific hours for children. At Meow Parlour, guests are welcome to sit right next to the cats or lay on the floor while petting a furry friend. Every cat in Meow Parlour is adoptable, and a new one comes in once one has been adopted.
Meow Parlour has received a lot of attention in the short year it has been open, from various media outlets such as PopSugar and People, not only because it is the first cat café in the nation, but also because it is genuinely making a difference in finding permanent homes for cats living on the scary streets of New York. Meow Parlour works with KittyKind, a nonprofit adoption organization that aims to decrease the number of abandoned animals in the city. KittyKind partners with the Parlour by giving them cats that have had a particularly difficult life, and ones they believe will thrive in the store as well as with other cats. Kitty Kind makes Christina and Emily’s lives a little easier by choosing which cats to bring to the store. If a guest chooses to adopt a cat, they go through KittyKind.
Meow Parlour changes the story for humans and cats alike. Most of the cats in the store have been abandoned numerous times; the difference between when a cat came to Meow Parlour to when they leave is astonishing. Likewise, many people go to Meow Parlour and discover they love cats and would like to adopt one. Some are so grateful for their furry, friendly feline, they wonder if they rescued the cat or if the cat rescued them.