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Coffee and cats and creativity and community – oh my!

Starry Night Cat Cafe to open in Stevens Point

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June 10, 2024

STEVENS POINT – As a self-described creative person and avid cat lover, Lexi Peterson said taking those two passions and combining them into one business was something of a “universal alignment.”

The “cat-repreneur,” who also has a background in graphic design, is getting ready to open her first enterprise – Starry Night Cat Cafe. 

The cat sanctuary and coffee shop, Peterson said, is in honor of her cat, Hope, who passed away in 2022.

“She is the cat I got in college,” she said. “I went to school in Minneapolis, so I left the small town and wanted something different… I struggled my first year in school to find my group, and (Hope) was always my constant.”

The tuxedo cat, Peterson said, continued to be at her side for a myriad of life developments – such as moving back home to Wisconsin and into her first house, getting married and having a baby. 

Peterson said she would even take Hope and her other cats along on family camping trips – even having her own cat tent.

It was during those camping trips in various small towns, Peterson said, when she noticed several different cat cafes.

“To me, that was like living the dream,” she said. “I joked with my husband… saying someday after I retire, this is my game plan. I’m going to have a little cat boutique.”

The idea, Peterson said, has lived in her mind for years now. 

First steps

As time went on, Peterson said she worked at a marketing brand management job in the Wausau area for more than seven years – which sparked her interest in entrepreneurship.

“I wanted to create something and bring something to the world – (I thought) I would love to have my own business,” she said. “But, I didn’t know what that business was.”

Though different opportunities began to present themselves, Peterson said she wanted to make sure she put “something positive into the world before I’m gone.”

“There were different opportunities that I was like, ‘oh yeah, this could be my thing – I’m passionate about this,’” she said. “But then it would be like, ‘but what’s the feel-good thing I’m putting out to it? There’s nothing – it’s pretty self-indulgent.’”

This caused Peterson to take a step back and reflect, and said she would “find her thing” in due time.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic, and then after Hope passed away… I was itching to go to cat cafes again and have that feeling, that vibe,” she said. “I’d be driving to Appleton because there’s the Pawfee Shop Cat Cafe. My husband was like, ‘you’re going there again? It’s so far.’ And I (would say), ‘well, that’s the closest one.’”

Lexi Peterson said she wanted Starry Night Cat Cafe to have an old world, art gallery feel. Photo Courtesy of Starry Night Cat Cafe

Then, Peterson said, it clicked. 

“I was like, ‘there’s got to be other people like me who are super cat-obsessed who would love to go to a cat cafe and are probably driving to Pawfee, (too), because it’s the closest one,’” she said. “That’s it… this could be my thing.”

And even more importantly, Peterson said a cat cafe could help shelter cats find “furever” homes in the Stevens Point area. 

An artful decision

With the decision to open a cat cafe made, Peterson said she chose to put her spin on it by integrating “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh (one of her favorite paintings and artists) into it – and Starry Night Cat Cafe was born.

“(Van Gogh) had depression,” she said. “He painted (Starry Night) after (a difficult time in his life)… And it’s, to me, the light in the darkness – there’s still hope and more life to live.”

That sentiment for her, Peterson said, is two-fold, because that is what her cat, Hope, was for her. 

With a mission of cats, coffee, creativity and community nailed down, the entrepreneur said her next step was finding a physical space for the cafe.

After searching for six months, Peterson said she came across a Facebook Marketplace listing for The Whiting Place – which was exactly what she was looking for. 

The available spot, she said, is where the former hotel’s ballroom used to be, which is “literally the essence of what I was picturing.”

“I wanted it to feel like this old world art gallery, transporting you into a different time and place…” she said. “(The ballroom) has big, beautiful windows, architectural elements, big chandeliers and a stained-glass ceiling that lights up. It’s amazing.”

Also included in The Whiting Place hub, Peterson said, are a hair salon, architectural firm, apartments and a few other commercial businesses.

Starry Night Cat Cafe, she said, will be located at 1141 Clark St., with its own entrance and parking lot into the building. 

Cats, of course

And, of course, Peterson said you can’t have a cat cafe without just that – cats. 

Starry Night Cat Cafe, she said, is partnering with the Humane Society of Portage County to foster some of its cats within the sanctuary portion of the business.

“They will determine the specific criteria for cats that will be best, or our feline fosters for success,” she said. “We want cats that will do well with other cats and deal with people that aren’t shy and anxious.”

Peterson said it’s important they aren’t bringing in cats that are going to be stressed in the environment, as “it’s supposed to help them create connections, not make their life worse.”

All cats will be fully vaccinated, microchipped and spayed or neutered, and Peterson said there will be up to 10 cats at a time living in the sanctuary. 

And, she said, the furry friends will be available for adoption through the Humane Society of Portage County either at the cafe or online.

“The Humane Society is the one who does all the adoptions,” she said.

That means all adoption fees and other work that needs to be done before adopting is done through the humane society, Peterson said, not Starry Night Cat Cafe. 

If a potential adopter is approved, she said the Humane Society will contact the cafe to inform them so a pick-up day for the cat can be scheduled. 

Cafe, sanctuary

For those who have never visited a cat cafe before, Peterson said, the space will be broken down into two parts – the cafe and the sanctuary. 

Anyone is welcome to spend time in the cafe portion of the building, regardless of whether or not they plan to enter the sanctuary. 

The coffee shop will feature a full espresso bar for drinks, such as lattes and mochas, using Condor Coffee beans.

Peterson said there will also be:

  • Drip coffee (including a decaf option)
  • Teas
  • Smoothies
  • Italian and French sodas
  • French lemonade

Some baked goods, such as cake pops and muffins, Peterson said, will also be available for purchase. 

Though the sanctuary is its own section within the shop, she said customers can look at the kitties from the coffee side, since the divider has large windows – and there’s even a high-top bar up against them for those looking to work/relax and watch. 

All cats living at the Starry Night Cat Cafe will be available for adoption through the Humane Society of Portage County. Photo Courtesy of Starry Night Cat Cafe

Other seating options, Peterson said, include high-top seating, two-seat and four-seat tables, a couch and a booth.  

Those looking to go inside the sanctuary, she said, are recommended to make reservations, though walk-ins will be accepted when available. 

Guests who make reservations ahead of time can review the house rules beforehand.

A waiver must also be signed before entering the sanctuary. 

Though no food will be allowed in the sanctuary, Peterson said covered drinks are acceptable. 

Only 10 guests will be allowed in for 45 minutes at a time, she said. 

Pricing for the sanctuary is still being finalized.

A space for community

Peterson said it’s important to emphasize that, cat lover or not, everyone is welcome at Starry Night Cat Cafe.

“I have a little flex space in the coffee house – it’s unique because we can create and cultivate different types of experiences,” she said. “We plan on hosting events geared toward all types of people and all types of age ranges.”

Some examples of events Peterson said she would like to host include board game nights, toddler readings, pop-up galleries, painting and poetry nights. 

“We are a welcoming hub for all, even if you don’t like cats,” she said. 

Peterson said the cafe will have different hours than many other establishments to meet the needs of everyone and not oversaturate the market. 

Starry Night will be open 2-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 

The later hours also provide a space for the community to hang out that doesn’t involve drinking alcohol, she said. 

As of right now, Peterson said there is not a solidified opening date, but “keep your cat eyes open” for updates on Starry Night Cat Cafe’s Facebook page. 

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