An open letter to the country begins, “Dear America: I have never been a person to call out others for bad behavior, but now is not a time to be silent or care about what others might think. Now is the time to fight back with empathy, words, and most importantly action.”
KitTea Cat Café Owner Courtney Hatt wrote this letter when she was rejected for the third time for a small business loan during the pandemic. She applied for a loan the day she had to close her café following the shutdown of restaurants in San Francisco. Hatt’s application was initially accepted by Wells Fargo, but soon retracted with little explanation, she said.
Hatt opened KitTea Cat Café in 2015 in the Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco. After suffering from anxiety in her late twenties, Hatt was comforted by her cats. She was inspired to help others like her with the opportunity to interact with these feline friends at a neighborhood teashop. Her idea brought Japanese-style cat cafés to the U.S.
“During my research to find a cat café to visit, I realized there wasn’t one that existed in the United States, so I made it my new mission to figure out why and how I could make it happen,” said Hatt in an email. “What started as a small endeavor took me on a life changing journey with an enormous amount of ups and downs!”
KitTea Cat Café is a calming space where people can bond with animals in the cat lounge while they sip an array of soothing teas and coffees. The café’s vibe is friendly and relaxing, a sanctuary for both cats and people. Customers can order everything from chai lattes to green teas and savor bites like the S’mores Cookie and the Dulce de Leche Brownie.
KitTea Cat Café isn’t just a place to drink tea and pet cute kitties, it’s also a small business-for-good. The café houses permanent resident rescue cats and also features rescued felines to help them find forever homes.
“I really enjoy the part where I can help cats with otherwise uncertain futures and to see the joy on people’s faces when they enter the cat lounge and interact with the kitties,” she said. “It sounds cliché, but it really does warm my heart.”
Hatt was first affected by the virus when the Shelter in Place order took effect on March 17 in San Francisco. After being rejected for several loans, she received messages from others who are going through the same ordeal. She said she was “living everyday not knowing if we would sink, but knowing I needed to swim regardless.”
Hatt said she launched a GoFundMe campaign for the café when she realized the government and the banks weren’t going to support her business. She called on the people of San Francisco to help KitTea Cat return once the Bay Area reopens. The campaign has been a success so far.
“It was really touching to receive so much support and love from past customers, neighbors and regular patrons – this has always felt like a community project and this pandemic has solidified that belief in me.”
Today, Hatt is gearing up to reopen the café. In the meantime, the best way to support KitTea is to donate to the GoFundMe campaign, order from the gift shop, purchase gift certificates, and subscribe to the monthly KitTea Kit. Hatt is hoping her appeal to the community will be heard far and wide.
“Soon you will no longer have your favorite coffee shop, deli, corner market, pizza place, boutique, family-owned pet store, or animal sanctuary,” Hatt wrote. “We must act now to save these independent, small businesses.”