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Interview with Sarah from Raleigh's Purr Cup Cafe

A few weeks ago my friends Sarah and Arthur opened Purr Cup Cafe at 210 Prospect Avenue here in Raleigh. They're good friends, great people, and I'm super excited about them realizing this dream that they've been working on for years. I wanted to help spread the word about Purr Cup (if you're in Raleigh you should definitely visit!), and I also thought it would be interesting to hear about a punk-run business that isn't a record store or a screen printing shop, so I asked Sarah a few questions. I hope everyone enjoys the interview, and hopefully in the future we can put the spotlight on more punks doing cool things.

1. For the readers who don't know, what is a cat cafe? Why are you opening one?

All cat cafes are a little different, but ours is basically a regular coffee shop, but better because we have cats. The space is divided into two main areas, the cafe area, and the cat lounge. You can just come by and grab a coffee and a snack, or get the full experience by visiting the cats. Due to COVID, we have had to adjust the way we operate slightly. To visit the kitties you can make a reservation online for your party, and you will have the whole cat lounge to yourselves. All the cats in the lounge are from an amazing local rescue, SAFE Haven for Cats, and are super fun and sweet. We have had our first four adoptions and are just coming up on two weeks of being open. Seeing the cats going home with their new families is an amazing feeling. The whole reason we opened a cat cafe was because we love cats so much and wanted to find a way to dedicate our lives to helping them, so it is really rewarding that four already found their homes.

2. I think a lot of people think to themselves "I should open a business," but very few have the follow-through to make it happen. Can you walk me through a quick version of how this went from an idea to opening day?

I’ve (half) joked that if someone had told me how hard it was going to be and how many obstacles we were going to face I would have never tried to open a business. It took us 3.5 years from when we first had the idea after visiting an amazing cat cafe in Philly. I was just kind of like “okay, I guess I am going to look up how to start a business.” I had noooo idea what I was doing. I wrote a business plan, started doing research, and asked some friends I know who had opened restaurants for advice. Even though we are open, I am still realizing random things about taxes and how to do all that official government shit. I just did my best, and asked a lot of questions. I am lucky to have some awesome friends (shoutout to Daniel, and to Caroline from Fiction Kitchen!) who were always down to answer my questions and help me figure stuff out. At times things were super frustrating and I felt like giving up, but I just kept doing what I could and here we are!

3. What do you imagine a typical visit to the cafe will be like for a customer? Entice us!

Well, so far, most people who walk in are like “awww its so cute!” and start getting excited about our sick cat merch, and obviously the amazing cats that you can see through the window into the cat lounge. We’ve got delicious vegan treats from JP’s Bakery and Lousy Hunters Doughnuts and a couple other spots. We’ve got a full espresso menu,, tea, local kombucha, and hopefully soon, wine and beer (getting that license in NC is ridiculously labor intensive and expensive). We are not doing any seating in the cafe right now, but we have a spacious back patio for people to enjoy their drinks and treats on. It’s been super nice to sit out there as the weather cools down. If you’ve made a reservation to visit the kitties, you can order your drinks and head into the cat room which is where the real magic happens. We have cozy seating, and a lot of super fun toys in there. I feel like sitting in a room with cats is such a magical way to check out of life and relax for a bit.

4. I'm not sure how you'd describe your personal politics, but I know you're an activist and work hard to make the world a better place in many different ways. How do you see that squaring with your new role as a business owner, even a "boss?"

Being a “boss” is so not natural or comfortable for me mostly cause I don’t believe in hierarchy (Anarchy, babyyyyy) and also don’t like telling people what to do. Also I hate capitalism so that’s kinda weird but I don’t really make any money so it’s not too bad. In an ideal world I would be doing the same thing I am now but I wouldn’t have to pay for anything or charge money for anything. But until then, this is okay. It is super important for me to use our space and resources to do what we can to support the community. I’ll be sending pots of coffee out to the weekly Food Not Bombs distro on Saturdays, and have been in touch with some other local groups about how I can help in the coffee department. The way I see it, we all have stuff going on in our lives... most people can’t fully commit to mutual aid work etc, but we all have various skills and resources and if you get creative you can usually find a way to be helpful. Also, the cafe is all vegan because I don’t believe in the exploitation of human or non-human animals. This next statement might make some people mad….but if it does it’s probably because you should get mad...and then think about it...and then realize I am right….and change. Just kidding, do whatever you want but if you love animals but your diet directly contributes to their suffering...that’s kinda fucked up. ANYWAYS I am pretty bad at capitalism because I keep wanting to give things away and won’t compromise my morals to make money but hopefully the cafe will survive. Even if the above statement made you mad you should still come visit and I will be nice to you, I promise :)

5. Since Sorry State is a music store, let me know what's been soundtracking your life and work at the cafe.

This is a hard question because I am having a really hard time picking music to play at the cafe. It’s a “family friendly” spot so that rules out a lot of my personal go-tos, but I have been enjoying playing an amazing SPOOKY playlist that my best friend/band mate Elizabeth made. I’ve also been playing bands like the Go-Gos, Blondie, The Pretenders, stuff that I like but is inoffensive to the average customer. I miss going to shows A LOT. The last show I saw was up in Richmond and happened days before everything shut down. The band Lux, from Barcelona, was playing and I love them so I’m happy I made that one day trip happen. Shows were basically how I discovered new bands, so I haven’t listened to much new stuff lately. Personal favorites/go-tos that I put on after we close are X-Ray Spex, The Slits, The Bags, Special Interest, and Exotica. PS if anyone better than me at making playlists wants to make me a cafe-friendly spotify playlist, feel free!! I will trade you a coffee for a good playlist.

Top: Sarah hard at work
Center: Sarah's photo series, "cats on amps"
Bottom left: the cat room
Bottom right: the cafe's exterior

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