Barre business owner hopes to open state's first cat cafe

BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) A central Vermont business is expanding with an idea that they hope will "Cat-ch" on. Cat cafes have been popping up around the country -- including one in Quebec. But soon you may not have to go that far to have a cup of coffee with cats. A Barre flower shop's move is opening up space for a "Kitty Korner."

Amid the hustle and bustle of busy lives, most of us forget to take a break. But a Barre business owner says she has the purr-fect solution.

"Why not have a half-hour coffee break where I can sit down and pet a cat who's going to make me feel at least a little better about life," said Alexis Dexter, the owner of Forget-Me-Not Flowers & Gifts. "I love cats a lot, if you couldn't tell."

The self-professed feline fanatic says the idea of opening a cat cafe started as an inside joke. "As soon as I got my store, my one-year gift to myself and the store was a shop cat, and a couple of months ago I ended up with another shop cat because I might have a problem," Dexter sad.

Now Paisley and Maisey are familiar feline faces. And after realizing that customers liked to stop in to the flower shop just to see them, Dexter says the idea for "Kitty Korner" took root. Hers would be the first in Vermont. "I think people are afraid to make that jump into something that's super popular in other states," she said.

Health department officials say the idea has been approached before. "Over the years we've had several inquiries about this type of business, but none of those projects had followed through with even opening or applying for a license," said the department's Andy Chevrefils.

That may be because the logsitics are tricky. In addition to following the regular restaurant rules, there are rules strictly separating felines from food, including different entrances. The bottom line according to Chevrefils: "Live animals are generally not allowed in a food service establishment." he said.

But Dexter says they can make it work. "Once we pass over that threshold, people aren't even going to think twice," she said.

She plans to work with the Central Vermont Humane Society to figure out which adoptable cats are best for the space. They'll have a reservation system where customers will pay by the half-hour. And if someone really falls in love with a furry face, they can take them home. "That one person who falls in love with a cat -- you really want them to have that experience where the cat falls in love with them," Dexter said.

Right now they're doing a fundraising campaign to raise the money needed to start up the café. If they hit the $5,000 mark by June they're hoping to be open by the end of that month.