As the door swings open at the Black Forest Cat Cafe, another smiling face walks in. Co-owner Julie Pressler says she’s used to it by now. “There are very few people that can walk in the door and not automatically feel better.”
“It’s hard to be stressed here,” says Pressler’s daughter and co-owner, Emily Pressler. “Even though it’s technically work, it doesn’t feel like it,” she laughs. “It’s hard to be upset when you see their cute, little faces.”
There has never been a time where Julie Pressler didn’t love cats. It’s a trait that runs through the entire family. A picture on the wall shows her mother when she was a child with a cat. Her mom, has been a volunteer at Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control for the past 25 years.
Last June, Julie stepped away from a 25-year nursing career she loved to follow a dream with her daughter and open the first cat cafe in Fort Wayne. “The outreach and support from the community has been amazing,” she says. “I feel like our regulars are part of our family.”
Family is important to the Presslers. Julie says everyone pitches in and helps. “Not only is my daughter my partner, my two sons work here and my husband helps with the business side of it. And, I feel like all of the staff has become part of the family too.”
“We do coffee and cats,” says Barista Noelle Cardenas. “I think it’s a cool combination. You can come in and just get a coffee if you want, but if you’re really interested in cats, we have that too. It’s nice that we have options.”
College student Chloe Stuttle says she comes every week with her friend, Madison Sutherland. “Number one, I love their coffee,” Stuttle says. “Two, I’m a cat momma. I have two cats. Every time I come in here, there is something new on the wall. There’s always new merchandise and the menu comes in and out so there is always something new.”
“I come every Wednesday with Chloe,” says Sutherland. “We do study dates so we always get stuff done and I really like the vibes too. I get a pumpkin muffin every time I’m here.”
The cats are the stars of the show, but the coffee and pastries should never take a back seat. “We serve Old Crown Coffee, a local roaster,” says Julie. “Best coffee in the world, I think. We also have a variety of pastries my daughter and I bake in house. We usually have a few German pastry recipes handed down through our family which is where the Black Forest name came from.”
“Cats, Coffee and Community is what we’re passionate about,” says Emily. “We wanted to make a welcoming space so everyone feels comfortable here. We made this so everybody could just relax in the cat room, decompress, and feel like themselves.”
Ben Armstrong brought his two year old son Gage to enjoy a snack and check out the cats. “I know one of their missions is getting cats adopted,” he says. It’s a great blend with the Black Forest Cat Cafe. This is just a great place to have a snack and hang out”
Finding cats their forever home is really what it’s all about. 383 happy pictures of cats and their adoptive families adorn the walls. “We had an original goal of about a hundred cats in our first year,” says Emily. “I had no idea it would be about three times that, which is crazy and awesome.”
“Even if she wasn’t my amazing daughter who I’m incredibly proud of,” says the proud mom. “Just to see the different generations working together is really neat. It’s a culture we have nurtured, and it’s just a positive culture within the building.”
“It’s great to be able to do this together,” says the equally proud daughter. “Out of everyone in the world, we know each other best and we trust each other. That’s a good way to run a business.”
The Black Forest Cat Cafe is located in JoAnn Plaza at 4716 Coldwater Road in Fort Wayne. One side of the cafe is just like a traditional coffee house with windows to see in the cat room. You can schedule a half hour session in the cat room for $7, or a 55-minute session for $10.
Discounts are offered for students and group home patients and their social workers. You can book a session on their website.