by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Cat Cafes started in Taiwan, caught on, and moved into Japan where small apartments leave little room for even a smallish cat. One article on the subject quoted German philosopher Albert Schweitzer as saying, "The only escape from the miseries of life is music and cats."
Taiwan now hosts 150 and they are spreading far and wide. One is about to start in Australia. North America's first opened in Montreal recently.
In a cat cafe the patron must make an appointment to spend an hour interacting with the kitties who have their run of the cafe. Patrons have been observed on the floor enticing attractive cats with purchased cat treats and tossing mouse toys. Naturally, cafes in Japan feature tea rather than coffee for patrons. The cost is generally around $10.00 an hour. The cat treats are extra, costing around $3.00.
While it is unlikely this edgy form of commerce will be popping up in Ashtabula any time soon the innovative spirit for answering an unfilled niche leads this writer to consider a business which might prosper, and bring a trickle of prosperity with it, to Ashtabula.
What Ashtabula needs are businesses which make it attractive to live here. Other towns nearby, for instance Geneva, have managed this.
Why not fill a niche which has been emptying due to the give away of washers and dryers to needy families and the exodus coming with the collapse of the job market here? These factors have caused at least one laundromat owner to consider closing up shop entirely.
Consider for a moment our need to bring in young people and give them a reason to stay. One of the greatest assets we have is the Ashtabula Kent State Campus. More students would likely come in from other places to attend if housing and student life was more attractive. So, what about building student housing? Student housing which works economically is sturdy, well insulated, well designed, and attractively located with gathering places to draw students to other businesses.
A combination Internet Cafe with laundromat set up in the Star Bucks mode would be very attractive to students. Add niches with tables for conversation so students can chat as they do their wash, enjoy a latte, and dig into their school work. Place this near that student housing.
Cat Cafes happen where there is prosperity and leisure. Let's start with the prosperity. Meow.