As a fervent cat lover and owner, Kristin Cowan has long dreamed of opening a cat cafe. That dream began to take form when she visited one in Charleston, South Carolina. “I wish I could open [a cat cafe],” she mused. “And then I was like, ‘Why can’t I?’ I really wish I could adopt all [the] cats, but I know that I can’t. I really want to help them find homes.”
Flash forward to the present, when Northern Virginia will get its first cat cafe in the form of Mount Purrnon. The establishment will be in Old Town Alexandria, ideally Old Town West—as close to the bustling King Street as possible. Cowan is currently in talks with real estate agents and zoning officers, but the plan is to begin construction at the end of summer and open Mount Purrnon to the public before the end of the year. A successful Kickstarter that raised $25,500 will cover much of the expenses for finding and preparing the space for use.
Merely planting the cafe in the Northern Virginia area distinguishes it from other cat cafes Cowan has visited. An Alexandria location makes it accessible by both Metro and car. In addition to standard cafe fare, a selection of local wines and beers will add a dash of flair to the menu. But perhaps most unique will be the emphasis on the area’s history—hence the cafe’s playful take on the nearby Mount Vernon.
A self-proclaimed “Revolutionary War nerd,” Cowan wanted to ensure that Alexandria’s past was incorporated into the environment. “I love the old feel and history of Old Town Alexandria,” she says. “There are so many things to do there, but it still has a small-town vibe. I thought it would be a good location to tie in the history.”
Cowan describes the atmosphere of Mount Purrnon as a “lounge-y” feel, one that will seamlessly blend the community’s history with the cozy ambience of a tavern and cat-friendly environment. Patrons will be able to peruse a catalog of guidebooks, maps and other materials that can inform a tourist (or curious resident) of Virginia’s rich history. After purchasing libations from the wine bar or a hot coffee and pastry from the cafe, visitors can keep the adoptable cats company in an adjoining room. If you become attached to a certain feline, you can even begin the adoption process right then and there.
Cowan already has plans to expand the use of the cafe’s space for yoga, trivia nights, wine tastings and more. Her background in psychology is inspiring her to potentially host peer support groups for animal-based therapy sessions. “I could help people, I could help the cats, and everyone would be happy,” Cowan explains.
Wine, history, animal companionship—Mount Purrnon promises something enjoyable for everyone, all while bringing cats one step closer to finding a home. It is a reflection of Cowan’s ultimate motivation for bringing her idea to fruition: “Life’s too short to not do something you really love, and make a difference at the same time.” // mtpurrnoncatcafe.com