Lori Konawalik is the proprietor of Mac Tabby (mactabby.com), Charlotte’s first cat café.
The feline-centered concept is located in NoDa’s central business district, in a walk-up space over Ruby’s Gift. “It’s basically half cat lounge and half coffee shop,” Konawalik explained. “When you walk in, you walk into the coffee shop, which has beer, wine, smoothies, coffees, lattes, all kinds of fun things like that.”
That part of the venue is exactly what you’d expect from an artsy seller of things caffeinated — a big space where you can work, meet friends, and relax amid comfortable and funky furnishings. Local art adorns the walls, with proceeds supporting its makers, while guitars stand in corners, longing to be picked up and strummed by a patron. Still, most people come for the cats.
Mac Tabby’s 12 feline residents have their own separate area, about half the square footage of the overall space. The cat lounge is filled with lots of balls, tunnels, climbing gyms, and high lounging platforms. Visits range from half an hour to a whole hour and cost $8 to $12. All the cats are adoptable through the café’s rescue partner, Catering to Cats and Dogs (c2cnd.org). Every time a cat goes out, a new one comes in. Together, they have facilitated 327 adoptions.
Konawalik came to Charlotte about 14 years ago. A New Jerseyite by birth, she grew up in Pennsylvania, venturing out to Arizona to study art and communications in college. Back in the Quaker State, a high-stress marketing career followed. Desiring more work-life balance, she began eying Charlotte. When a job opportunity at UNCC presented itself to Konawalik’s husband, the pair pulled up stakes and she began planning her dream job: to save cats in an exclusive space that celebrates local art and music.
Creating Mac Tabby wasn’t without hurdles. At first, logistical challenges and the anxieties of starting a business loomed large in the new entrepreneur’s mind. Eventually, Konawalik recognized those fears for what they were and now advises new business owners: “Just start somewhere. Take the first step. It will lead to the next one.” Beginning in December 2017, she began incubating her business idea at Area 15 in nearby Optimist Park. “We were looking for a location. A lot of landlords didn’t want to talk to me. They couldn’t understand the concept.”
The following year, the cats landed (presumably feet first) on the 3000 block of North Davidson Street.
“Even before it was an option, I knew I was going to wind up in NoDa on this street,” Konawalik said. “This is where we belong. People come here on purpose, to do something a little bit different, to have a different energy. It’s not cookie cutter. It’s completely out there and kind of funky and weird. I feel like we fit that vibe in everything we do, including having live animals in our building.”
For Konawalik, Mac Tabby is the culmination of an ultimate dream. “I’m eternally grateful to the universe. It was so magical, the way it all came into place. I try extra hard every day to spread love and happiness, with cats. I have no intention of leaving. I want to be a little old lady at my cat café.”