There's plenty of meow to go around in Atlanta these days.
Happy Tabby Cat Cafe had its soft opening last weekend in Old Fourth Ward at 529 Irwin St. The business joins Java Cats Cafe, which opened its doors in March in Grant Park .
Customers can now pay by $8 an hour to play with kitties in Happy Tabby's "cat room". Currently home to 17 cats, all up for adoption through FurKids animal rescue organization, the space will eventually host up to 25, according to owner April Hill. The room -- a veritable cat paradise outfitted with a loft, hammocks and a variety of cat toys -- holds 30 people, and Hill says if it's not at capacity, she'll allow people to stay longer. For customers who prefer to cat watch rather than cat interact, a partition made of giant windows Hill collected from old houses around the city separates the cafe from the cat room.
The cafe portion of Happy Tabby, set to open in the next few days, will serve drinks including lattes, cold brews and teas, and plans to offer pre-made, packaged foods from a rotating list of local purveyors including King of Pops and Highland Bakery. Hill is working with San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. on the beverages and also developed a special dark roast with Mexican and Peruvian beans that'll serve as Happy Tabby's house roast and will be available for purchase.
Hill first announced her plans to open the cafe in 2016 , though she's been working on making her feline dream a reality for more than two years after traveling extensively and seeing cat cafes in other parts of the world.
"Back in 2015, no one had talked about doing a cat cafe in Atlanta," Hill said. "I had a business background, and I knew I could pull it off."
She left her job, cashed in her savings and launched a Kickstarter to help her fund the project, which she says was basically a one-woman operation at the beginning, though she now has six employees.
"I was doing everything from acting as the accountant to cleaning out the litterboxes," she said.
A big part of the process was getting the building -- which was built in 1901 and previously served as a barbershop where Martin Luther King Jr. got his hair cut -- ready for prime time. Hill gutted the space and redid the electrical systems and plumbing, then worked with an architect to bring her vision to life.
So does Hill think there's enough room in this town for two cat cafes?
"Once I started looking into opening one in 2015, I knew it'd spread and that others would be inspired," she said. "It's exciting that someone else wanted to do it -- there's more than enough room."
529 Irwin St., Atlanta. 678-640-4404, happytabbycatcafe.com/
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