State’s first cat cafe opening soon
Cats and cookies are an unlikely combination, but Julia Grueskin mixes those two things along with yoga at New Mexico’s first cat cafe, Gatos y Galletas at 141 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque.
Grueskin, 26, said she came up with the idea to create a cat cafe when she heard there had been several successful ventures in Japan and even in America.
Grueskin named the cafe Gatos y Galletas (cats and cookies). According to the website, the cafe “will tentatively open April 23, pending city permits and inspections.”
“I was like ‘oh this is perfect’! I’ve always loved animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a kid and I’ve been wanting to get my food out to more people and also my yoga and now I can do that all in one place and help cats get adopted,” Grueskin said.
Grueskin said she plans on serving her own vegetarian recipes as well as hosting open mic nights and yoga classes.
Grueskin said the cafe will be two adjoined buildings, people can order food at the cafe side, while cats will be on the other side.
“I am envisioning people coming into this side of the café, lining up ordering their selection of either a vegetarian or vegan meal or just like a pastry or snack,” Grueskin said. “Then they can either sit here to eat if they choose not to eat it with the cats or else they can go to that cat side.”
Grueskin said she works with Fatcatz, who will provide her with the cats that will be up for adoption in the cafe.
“Fatcatz essentially rescues cats from different high-kill shelters around the state and then they foster them,” Grueskin said.
She said because Fatcatz does not have their own established building she will act as a foster home for 12 cats at a time.
Grueskin said people can adopt through the cafe. Once cats are adopted Grueskin said she will foster more cats.
“It’s nice for people who can’t have their own cats but just want to spend time with them. Then if someone is looking to adopt they get to interact with a cat here and if they feel it’s a good fit they can fill out an application directly through Fatcatz,” Grueskin said.
Grueskin said in 2015 she began searching for a place to open her cafe, but She overcame several obstacles. She said at first she wanted to buy a building but she could not get a loan from the bank.
“The banks kept shutting it down because they said this concept hasn’t been proven here and I thought ‘yeah I know because it’s the first one’ and they said ‘no we don’t feel comfortable loaning you that amount of money, come back in a couple years,’” Grueskin said.
Grueskin said renting a place turned out to be a better decision. She said she ran into a few problems with landlords as well.
“I started looking at places for rent and there were a couple places I got close with but usually something happened with the landlord not being fully supportive of the concept,” Grueskin said.“A common thing that people like to say is ‘it sounds like you’re serving cat on the menu’ and that was literally why the landlord of the last building didn’t think it would work.”
Grueskin said she found the building for the cafe by a happy accident. She said she was having tea in the cafe when the owner told her he was thinking of moving out of there.
“The space next door was already vacant and then the landlord just happened to be there showing it to someone else already so I talked to him. My brokers still helped me negotiate the deal so that just worked out really well,” Grueskin said.
After finding the space Grueskin said she had to make sure all was in accordance with the health code. She said she is working with the city health inspector to get the building up to code.
“Some people think it’s gross to have food and cats near each other, but I am trying to minimize the cross contamination and have them separate,” Grueskin said.
Grueskin said she promoted her cafe on the radio and attended several networking events.
She said her friend who works for a social media consulting firm and created the cafe’s logo.
Grueskin said she plans to promote the cafe on social media as well.
“I will probably have loyalty cards and specials to get people to come out. I think it’s nice being a unique concept and people who are really excited about it might just find it,” Grueskin said.
Grueskin said in the future she would like to expand, opening up a few more cat cafes in Albuquerque and other parts of New Mexico.
Enjoying the scenery
Grueskin said she was born in New York City but studied vegetarian cooking, Yoga, and art at colleges in Colorado and Austin.
Grueskin said she moved to Albuquerque because of the opportunity to showcase her skills.
“I was feeling like Austin was pretty saturated with people doing the kind of healthy cooking and yoga stuff that I was doing and Albuquerque seemed like a less saturated but still positive and growing market for my training and services,” Grueskin said.
She said she also enjoyed the scenery in Albuquerque.
Grueskin said she cooks for private clients. She said she also taught classes out of her studio until recently.
“I have been running a studio called the Studio Space where I was teaching cooking Yoga art and Spanish classes but I just moved out of there on Monday so I could fully focus on this,” Grueskin said.
She said she felt the studio space was not growing as much as she had wanted it to and decided to focus entirely on the cafe.
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Owner of Gatos y Galletas
Studied vegetarian culinary arts and yoga at colleges in Austin and Colorado. Grueskin moved to Albuquerque to market her skills a year and a half ago.
If you weren’t doing this job what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be working for myself in some capacity or another, since that’s what I’ve been doing for the past three years and I don’t think I could go back to working for someone else now.