On Christmas Eve 2016, Lori Konawalik had a crazy idea. She shared with her in-laws her vision of a cozy space in Charlotte where you could sit quietly with a cup of coffee and a cat curled up in your lap. Make that many cats, a whole roomful in fact.
A year later, Konawalik opened Mac Tabby, Charlotte’s first cat café at Area 15 on North Davidson and 15th streets. It’s a new spin on a feline adoption center, a funky cool space where cat lovers can socialize, listen to live music and possibly meet their next new furry friend, but no pressure.
As the café approaches its one-year anniversary, Konawalik and Mac Tabby Café have found homes for 114 felines, animals rescued by Charlotte non-profit Catering to Cats and Dogs. Mac Tabby’s birthday also brings a surprise announcement. Like a sure-footed feline padding to its destination, the café is moving up North Davidson Street into the heart of NoDa. From its new digs across from Cabo Fish Taco, Mac Tabby will host a grand opening on January 12 featuring live music by Liam Alone.
As a black kitty named Xena nuzzled her leg, Konawalik sat down with Queen City Nerve in the Area 15 cat lounge to discuss growing up and moving out.
Queen City Nerve: What inspired you to launch Mac Tabby?
Lori Konawalik: I was a wedding photographer for 10 years but I felt there was something more I needed to do with my time on earth. My heart was being pulled somewhere but I wasn’t sure where. I was talking about it with my husband Nick one day. He asked me if there was anything in the world I wanted to do, what would it be? I already knew the answer.
I started rattling off that I wanted to help the cat rescue community. I wanted to support artists and musicians, and I wanted to be around people who color outside the lines – because I feel like that’s something I’ve always done. So I decided to put it all into one location. The problem was the logistics. But we pushed fear aside and kept walking toward the end goal.
Mac Tabby is named after our tabby cat Kitty. Kitty actually passed away a couple of months before this cafe opened, so this is his namesake.
We did a Kickstarter to launch this place so I don’t feel like this [café] is just mine. The 299 people on Kickstarter who helped us get to where we’re going now, all these 114 cats who have walked out the door and all the ones still in this space – it’s all of ours.
And now you’re moving from Area 15.
December 16 is our one-year anniversary. We feel it’s a good time to announce the move on our birthday weekend because we are growing up. We came into Area 15 for a lot of reasons. One was the community aspect of it. Our landlord’s goal in life is to give people like us – young entrepreneurs trying to fulfill a dream – a chance. Area 15 is basically a business incubator. And it worked. He helped us incubate this idea and to follow our dreams.
We now have the opportunity to move up North Davidson Street into the heart of NoDa. We felt like we had to take this chance. Even though it’s only been a year, it’s time to start all over again and move up the street.
Why did NoDa appeal to you?
The thing we love the most about NoDa is the energy. There’s hustle and bustle. When we have out-of-town visitors they ask, “Where’s the weird place in the city?” I know that we’re going to fit in there. People go to NoDa looking for something different. And I think that describes us. I think it will be huge for the cats because they’re going to get so much attention. The foot traffic is going to be amazing.
Where exactly will the new Mac Tabby be located?
Everyone seems to know the building that has Osiris Rain’s lotus flower on the side. That’s an Instagram-able wall. Everyone knows that wall. We’re going to be above Pura Vida and Ruby’s Gifts on the second floor. When we look out our windows we look right down at Cabo Fish Taco. We’re right across the street at 3204 North Davidson Street.
What will be different at the new facility?
It’s 1,600 square feet, which is a lot more space. The current cat café is only 800 square feet. Beer and wine has been requested numerous times so we’re working to get those permits before opening day. We’ll continue to carry Pure Intentions Coffee and Lenny Boy kombucha. We’ll have more merchandise. We’re working out a new schedule because people have been requesting both earlier hours and later hours. There will be some nights and longer hours on the weekends. There will be some changes but the core of what we are will stay the same.
How would you describe that – the core of what you are?
We create this kind of atmosphere [in the café] that obviously works. It helps cats get homes because you can see their true personalities. They connect more with people in an environment like this. It’s a relaxed and fun atmosphere. It’s great to help animals like that and to see people walking into this space happy. This morning we had kitty time and there were little kids here bonding with animals. It’s about more than just having 114 adoptions, even though that is one of our goals. It’s neat to be a part of something that spreads happiness, peace and joy. One guy nailed it on the head as he was leaving the cat lounge. He said, “You don’t sell cat time. You sell mental health.”
Mac Tabby Grand Opening Celebration feat. Liam Alone
Free; Jan. 12, 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Music 7-9 p.m.; Mac Tabby Cat Café, 3204 N. Davidson St.; mactabby.com