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  • Spencer Horton

Cool Beans Cat Café brings New Concept to Downtown Gastonia

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Downtown Gastonia, like many across the county, is growing with businesses and creativity, a new wave of excitement breathing life into Gaston County’s Main Streets.

On March 23, Julianna Coon, with the help of her mother and Gastonia business-owner, Sue Ann Robb, opened the doors to downtown’s newest—and arguably cuddliest—business: Cool Beans Cat Café.

Julianna Coons and Sue Ann Robb - Vincent Ginski, Gaston Outside

Coon had her sights set on opening a coffee shop since her days at Western Carolina University. She’d worked in a few cafes during her time in Cullowhee but the wheels were turning for something more.

Coon began discussing this idea with her mother who asked Coon the age-old question, “What do you want to do with your life?”

It was through this conversation that the idea was born. A lifelong book lover, Coon longed to have a space filled with books and coffee but knew she wanted more than this classic combo to attract customers.

Vincent Ginski, Gaston Outside

Sorting through ideas, the cat cafe epiphany came about rather organically.

“My mom’s fiancée is a crazy cat person,” Coon says of the familial ties of the cafe.

“I think probably one of his cats was making noise or something when I was thinking about the café and that’s when it came to me,” Robb continues. “I just felt like it was something that would draw people down here since we didn’t have anything like this in town.”

Bringing the Dream to Life

Not long after this conversation, Robb found a location for them to get started: a historical storefront that was once a law office. And there was one added perk: Robb’s salon, Running With Scissors, is right down the street from the café.

Robb has helped her daughter go through the process, helping Coon through things that might not be top-of-mind for first-time business owners.

“It’s never easy to open a business,” Robb said. “I helped with the technical part of things, dealing with codes and zoning.”

Once the technicalities were in place, the pair got to work on the fun part: up-fitting the shop and menu creation.

Vincent Ginski, Gaston Outside

Walking in the door of the café, you’re met with plush red chairs nestled in a corner with a shelf lined with used books, overlooking Main Street through large bay windows, providing a bright-yet-soothing natural light.

The counter for ordering is galley-style, with a pastry case greeting guests upon entering. A window opens into the cat portion of the café, closed off from the remaining portion of the establishment.

The café offers tea and coffee, with specialties such as the “Catpurrcino” and the “Caramel Meowchiato.” With various flavors to choose from, customers can customize their lattes and frappes to personal taste. Coon has sourced creative additions like lavender, something customer Adrian George enjoyed at Coon’s recommendation. The unexpected flavor, an adventurous choice for George, was a pleasant surprise.

The café will have cat-themed frappes such as “The Tortie,” a toasted marshmallow and mocha-flavored frappe, its name and brown-and-white swirls paying homage to Tortoiseshell Calico breeds.

The pastry menu consists of a rotating case of pastries from Stanley-based Let’s Get Baked Artisan Desserts, with items like brownies and cookies making an appearance.

Special Cats brought by Strategic Partnership

As for the cats, Coon and Robb have teamed up with NC Paws Rescue in Hickory.

“I found them online and they were just really sweet people,” Robb says. “They send us cats that they think will do well here, cats that may not get a showcase otherwise.”

Vincent Ginski, Gaston Outside

The café currently is home to seven cats seeking adoption, including three that are special needs, a descriptor that can be quite broad in the feline world. Coon says that many shelters ask for no special needs cats. So, she specifically asked to get the disabled cats, like Tilt.

Tilt is an orange Tabby cat who had ear polyps as a kitten, a condition that led to spinal problems, causing his head to be in a constant tilt. Wiggles, who is deaf and has cerebellar hypoplasia, a condition that Coon describes as “cerebral palsy for cats”, causes him to wiggle as he walks.

For customers looking for more than coffee, 30-minute and hour sessions (for those ages six and older) are available for those looking to adopt, pet or just spend some time in a unique environment, taking a break with some furry friends.

Coon and her crew help facilitate adoptions, providing applications that are then submitted to NC Paws Rescue, making this a dynamic partnership benefitting both business and the animal world. Though walk-ins are welcome, Coon recommends registering online to ensure a spot.

The cats are all quite friendly, getting along with both humans and their fellow cat friends. Each have been spayed and neutered and are up-to-date on vaccinations and vet visits, ensuring the safety of the humans and creatures walking through the doors.

As for the general public, Coon and Robb say the community has reacted very positively to the new business.

“People seem to love it so far,” Robb said. “Anything that adds to downtown Gastonia is a good thing and I’m glad we could do this to help the cats.”

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