For all the cat lovers out there, this might be what you call ‘the best idea in the world’. Others might think it is downright whacky.
Welcome to Koneko, New York City’s first cat cafe.
It all started when founder and owner Benjamin Kalb, 25, took a trip to Japan. He returned totally transformed by one experience in particular. It was a visit to a cat cafe. Several years ago, Kalb, a recent graduate from the New School, was at a loss as to what to do with his life. When he was touring Japan, the experience at the cat cafe sparked the idea of potentially opening one of his own back home. After exploring over 25 other feline eateries, he came back with a wealth of ideas. Quickly he set to work with his partner Joe Crump, to conceptualize Koneko.
Both were utterly shocked by how well the idea took hold in New York. After opening only a few months ago, the cafe currently averages 120 customers per day.
It is surprising in a city such as New York, with its strict health and safety regulations, that a cafe that serves food and houses animals is allowed. But the crafty owners found ways around the law by separating the eating areas from the cat cuddling zones.
The cafe is inspired by Japanese minimal design with concrete, wooden and calico furnishings. There are three spaces which include two living-like cat rooms, a patio (catio) and a restaurant area which is separated by a wall of glass. The cats, who are all rescue cats from the charity Anjellicle Cat Rescue, are available for adoption should you happen to fall for one. You also must reserve a time to be with the cats in advance, which costs $15 per hour. This is to avoid over-crowding the cat zones and to create a more pleasant experience for the guests. Beyond being a great place to hang with cats, there is also an excellent menu of Japanese inspired dishes and pastries such as green-tea infused cheesecake.
If not taken home by a loving customer, the cats are cared for by ‘guides’ who monitor the space, feed and groom the cats. They are also planning to host yoga classes in the cat rooms – labeling the sessions ‘cat meditation’s’.
From lawyers to fashionistas, every type has been seen walking through the doors in search of some petting time. Koneko offers those unfortunate cat lovers who are unable to own cats, the chance to spend some time playing with their feline friends in a stylish surrounding.