Photo courtesy of Catsbury Park
New Jersey’s first cat cafe is coming to Asbury Park. It’s called — brace yourselves — Catsbury Park, and, yes, it combines cats and a cafe under one roof.
When it opens at 708 Cookman Avenue, Catsbury Park will offer all of the expected coffee shop amenities — lattes, espresso, biscotti — with the added bonus of 10 to 15 cats on the premises. The cafe will be divided into two rooms, one with cats and one without, because health codes do not allow food to be prepared and served in the same room as the cats. Patrons can choose to sit in the cat-free zone, or hang out and and play with the cats while enjoying a coffee or tea.
All of the Catsbury Park cats will be up for adoption. There is a fee to hang out with the cats, something that is standard in cat cafes.
Cat Cafes first gained traction in Japan in the 2000s, with the idea that cats provide companionship and help to soothe the stresses of urban living. Catsbury Park is the brainchild of D.J. Bornschein, a native of the Jersey Shore who recently retired from a 20-year career in the music industry to focus on the business. Bornschein said he first visited a cat cafe in San Francisco, where he spends his winters, when he took a trip to KitTea in 2015.
“I fell in love with it within the first couple minutes of walking inside,” Bornschein said. “At that time, I didn’t know much about the business model. I just knew it was a place where I could get a waffle, a cup of tea and hang out with like 10 cats. That was enough for me.”
The cafe portion of the premises will be operated as a for-profit business, while the cat adoption service will be operated as a nonprofit. Bornschein said that the nonprofit service started about a year ago, and he has already been hosting adoption events around Asbury Park.
Philly’s 1st cat cafe opens; second on the way
Catsbury Park is currently partnered with two animal rescue shelters, the Monmouth County SPCA and the Camden County Animal Shelter. All of the cats that will be in Catsbury Park will be medically cleared by the shelters and by Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital.
The shelters will select which cats that will be featured in Catsbury Park, according to Bornschein. He said the cats selected to hang-out in the cafe will be “bomb-proof,” with sociable personalities and willingness to be around other felines.
“You don’t want to put a cat in a stressful situation,” Bornschein said. “You’re trying to find them homes, so you want them to do well.”
All the effort that goes into the cat side of the operation will be matched on the cafe side. Bornschein said that wants the cafe to become a destination for people looking to hangout in coffee shops, regardless of whether or not they like cats.
A cat at the cat cafe Envi-Cafe in Brno, Czech Republic. RADEK MICA/AFP/Getty ImagesRADEK MICA
Bornschein said that he’s visited cat cafes around the world to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
“In October I went to Japan for two weeks, it’s kind of the Mecca of cat cafes, to see if I could get any last minute ideas,” Bornschein said.
Bornschein said that Asbury Park is “absolutely the right town” for New Jersey’s first cat cafe. He said that he admires how the town has developed since he was growing up, and that he wants to be part of that.
“For years I have been like ‘Man I would love to own some kind of business in [Asbury Park],'” Bornschein said.
Bornschein said the original goal was to be open by Memorial Day, but due to various claws, er, clauses in the health code, that deadline will likely be missed. Catsbury Park has a few extra steps, such as establishing separate air ventilation systems for the cat and cafe sides of the space.
“It’s a difficult business to open, with all the hoops you have to jump through,” Bornschein said.