St. Louis has a new cat café. The Cheshire Cat Grin Cafe opened on Cherokee Antique Row in early August, featuring more than a dozen free-roaming adoptable cats. Guests can get to know the friendly resident felines on site while enjoying refreshments including locally roasted coffee and baked goods.

The concept comes from co-owners Paul Scimone and Kateri Cotter, who founded Green Paw Rescue in 2017. Scimone has more than a decade of experience in the animal welfare field, serving as a veterinary technician, animal behaviorist and dog trainer. Cotter  a graphic designer by trade – also runs her own cat toy company, Kiki’s Cat Toy Co.

“Our overall mission is to pull animals from high-stress areas where there’s a surplus population and they’re subject to euthanasia even though they’re great pets,” Scimone says. “We’re putting together what we can here in hopes of rescuing as many animals as we can.”

The Cheshire Cat Grin Cafe fills the approximately 3,000-square-foot building previously occupied by South City Art Supply, which has since rebranded and relocated to the Central West End. The first-floor shelving was converted into a multi-tier cat play area, and the second floor has plenty of space for prospective pets and visitors alike to spread out and relax. 

“One of our goals is to have all the cats in an interactive space where they show better than they would in a stressful environment,” Cotter says. “We want to have a place where people can come to play with the cats and get to know their personalities when they’re free from a cage.”

The café's name, in part, gets its name from a plexi-glass skylight installed between the first and second floor, where playful cats can “float” mysteriously above the cafe’s entrance. This is one of many features created by Scimone and Cotter themselves, in addition to refurbished wooden bars throughout the space, a floor-to-ceiling cat-scratching post and even the brand’s logo, which lends coinciding teal accents throughout the interior.

To enter the cats’ quarters, guests pay a $5 cover and sign a waiver acknowledging the café's safety guidelines. Reservations are encouraged, but walk-ins are accepted as well. Drinks and snacks, which can be enjoyed throughout the space, include locally roasted coffee and espresso from Coffeestamp. Packaged coffee, dubbed Yawning Cat, is also available for sale.

Baked goods from Whisk: a Sustainable Bakeshop include muffins, scones and pop tartlets. Laughing Bear Bakery created the shop’s signature cookie: a Cheshire cat sugar cookie.

“We want to educate the community about cats and just expand interest in cats in general,” Scimone says. “At the same time, we want to provide premium coffee, excellent pastries and be a comfortable place where people can get together and share an experience with us.”

The Cheshire Grin Cat Cafe is open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

The Cheshire Grin Cat Cafe, 1926 Cherokee St., St. Louis, Missouri, 618.530.3127, thecheshiregrincatcafe.com

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