Yes, the rumors are true: Spokane is finally getting a cat cafe.
The globally trending business model pairing cups of coffee with cuddly, adoptable cats is being locally spearheaded by Spokane couple Justyn and Tori Cozza. Word about their plans recently went viral on social media after a local design firm they're working with unveiled a logo for the venture, called the Kitty Cantina.
"We are definitely crazy cat people," Tori Cozza says. "Spokane definitely has a lot of up-and-coming things and we feel like [a cat cafe] is something that could be successful here. We're super excited."
The couple is thankful for the massive outpouring of interest and support since word about the cafe got out. They caution local cat lovers, however, that the timeline for Kitty Cantina's opening is a major unknown. It could open as early as late summer or fall of this year, or, at the latest, a full year from now, in spring 2020. The couple is currently in the initial permitting phase, but have a location picked out in the Wandermere area, on Hastings Road in a newly constructed commercial building.
Kitty Cantina plans to partner with SpokAnimal to "stock" the cafe with friendly, home-seeking cats that visitors can interact with and adopt. The partnership will open up space at the shelter and help cats in SpokAnimal's care find adopters that might not otherwise visit its facility in East Central Spokane.
As far as food and drink goes, the Cozzas are working with the Spokane Regional Health District to make sure the business will be able to safely serve food in an area separate from the lounge housing the cats. They plan for the cafe to serve espresso, beer and wine, and some food, though those plans won't be settled for a while. Customers will likely have the option to bring food or drink into the cat room, but staff won't be able to move back and forth from a food prep or serving area and the cat room.
The Cozzas were inspired to bring a cat cafe to Spokane after visiting two similar businesses in Seattle. Cat cafes first started in Japan and Taiwan as a place for urban residents to find companionship and relaxation.
"Besides being cat and coffee lovers, I've always wanted to start my own business that I enjoy working at," Justyn Cozza says. "It all clicked and landed in our lap at once — we could totally do this in Spokane."
Follow the Kitty Cantina on Instagram for updates: @spokane_kitty_cantina
LOCAL CHEF'S PIZZA PLEASES
Spokane chef Ricky Webster is one of 11 national finalists for the California Milk Advisory Board's 2019 Real California Pizza Contest.
As of this writing, Webster's recipe for his creation, the "Chard To Resist" pizza, was chosen to be prepared during a bake-off finale and judging panel on May 9 in Napa, California. Winners in three categories — all cheese, Mexican-style and "the REAL California" — each take home $5,000 and an overall winner gets $10,000.
Webster, who currently works as corporate chef and business resource manager for Sysco Spokane, was initially concerned that because he's not a chef in a traditional kitchen that his recipe wouldn't qualify. As it turns out, the judges loved the story behind his pizza — it was inspired by Webster's childhood in the Golden State and his first culinary job in NYC — which features white ricotta cheese, caramelized shallots, garlic, porcini mushrooms, raw white cheddar and pickled chard stems.
"It speaks to my cooking style of utilizing the best ingredients with no waste; combining rich flavors and balancing them out with heat and acid and always a touch of sweetness," Webster writes. ♦