Professional bakers Christina Ha and Emilie Legrand are on a mission to save stray cats. So much so, in fact, that the feline-adoring social entrepreneurs co-founded a unique small business in Lower Manhattan dedicated to helping homeless kitties find forever homes.
The close friends’ budding business, nestled in a bright, windowed open space, is purr-fectly called Meow Parlour. The enterprise, launched in 2015 on the heels of a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, is a serene urban escape where Big Apple residents can rent time to relax and unwind with a furry flock of free-roaming and adoptable feline friends.
“Seventy percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized,” Ha told Free Enterprise. “There are a lot of cats that are out there that are looking for homes. At Meow Parlour, our focus is on harder to adopt cats, which include shy cats, undersocialized cats, cats who have had a tough life … and three-legged cats, as we’ve always wanted to fight for the little guys.”
While at Meow Parlour, customers can also pop over and enjoy fresh coffee, tea and home-baked, often cat-themed sweet treats from Ha’s sister company, Macaron Parlour, a gourmet patisserie located right next door.
“It was the ‘cat-alyst’ or the background to say, ‘Well, I have a café, so I can literally just add cats and it’ll be a cat café,” Ha recalled. However, due to food safety regulations, she and Legrand had to open a separate, non-bakery cat-petting location, where cats could simply hang out — and not paw around where they prepare food. (Meow Parlour customers can and often do purchase treats and drinks at Macaron Parlour and bring them over to Meow Parlour’s petting area).
Staying true to their shared affinity for “all things cats,” Macaron Parlour serves fresh baked goods of all shapes and kinds, adorably cat-shaped French macarons and cookies of course included. (Dog lovers need not fret, as canine treats are baked fresh there daily, too.)
Sprinkled throughout Meow Parlour are cozy stools, floor cushions and countered nooks from which customers can pet kitties, sit, read and, if need be, work or study alongside various purring sidekicks. Cat-petting sessions can be reserved via the startup’s website for as little as a half-hour to up to five hours (for $6 per hour, plus tax).
Nestled in a bright, windowed open space on 46 Hester Street in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood, the urban animal lover’s oasis is also lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that kitties climb, and lounge and frolic on.
But there’s a broader social mission at play, beyond just a fun afternoon with furry friends.
“Meow Parlour is a really good starting point for people to come here and learn about some of the issues facing cats in the world today,” Ha said. “Once they start here and know that there is something out there, then they can go out and start to make the difference.”
While the kitties of Meow Parlour — “Freddie Mercury,” “Kobold,” “Jasmine” and “Jude Law” among them — are of varying ages and sizes, Ha and Legrand can’t stress enough that they all have one big thing in common: they need loving and permanent homes.
Realizing their dream to help keep cats off of the streets, and to do their part to stop many from being euthanized, Ha and Legrand partnered with Kitty Kind, a New York City-based nonprofit that runs an adoption center at the Union Square Petco. Each year, the no-kill, all-volunteer organization rescues more than 600 cats in in the city.
“If people fall in love with one of Meow Parlour’s cats, people can go to Kitty Kind and start the adoption process there,” explained Ha. “It’s a pretty thorough process because we wanted to know that every cat that we invested into was going to a thoroughly vetted home. We wanted to feel very confident that they were going to have their forever lives with the right family for them.”
She continued: “Seeing them get adopted is amazing. To know that 200-something families have a different life because of these animals is really rewarding.”