I had first met Celyta Jackson and her business partners at Pop Cats Miami in 2017. Square Paws was a vendor at the show, and Celyta and company were in the beginning process of building the first cat cafe in Miami Beach. I had enlisted a dear friend named Myriam to help me man our booth at the show. And, although I hadn’t heard from Celyta after the show, Myriam had stayed in close contact with her for other business reasons.
Fast forward to about nine months later, Celyta calls me to fill me in on where she is in the process of opening her cafe. She had to part ways with her business partners on the project. But she was determined to see it come to fruition in spite of the loss of partners, the escalating costs, the bureaucratic delays with the City of Miami Beach, and all the heartbreak that goes along with any retail construction project.
Celyta reminded me of the overall theme of the cafe being an interior “beach” for cats. Myriam had urged Celyta to reach out to me, noting that being of service is something Square Paws always strives for. I was only too happy to see how I might get involved.
Square Paws develops and builds custom cat furniture for existing concepts or from scratch. No matter what stage your project is in, we can help.
That night, Celyta sent me the floor plan and elevations of the cafe, along with a rendering and some photos of the construction process. It was pretty far along, and the vision was very clear: a coffee and snack bar with prep kitchen, seating, and a long counter separated by a glass wall viewing into the cat side. The space was narrow and long, but Celyta had selected a large photo-graphic that would cover the entire long wall of the cat room: a beach scene with palm trees, sand and soft waves, very much akin to the shores of Miami Beach. Celyta affectionately named the cat half of the space “Purradise.”
It had been Celyta’s dream to have several lifeguard stands in the cat room to help adorn the space with poignant “markers.” The space would also be outfitted with round throw rugs of green shag, Adirondack chairs, and bean bag chairs in bright, beach-ball colors. With the plan in hand, I suggested to Celyta that there be three lifeguard stands, each one reminiscent of the various iconic lifeguard stands on Miami Beach, as well as a “dock” at the shop window where passersby could look in and upon the various adoptable kitties. Three lifeguard stations would help break up the length of the room and make for great points to elevate the cats.
Celyta had already commissioned her contractor to wrap the columns in the cat room with high quality sisal rope, along with creating catwalks along the beams. We agreed that the contractor would also take on the dock construction and would make some other wall-mounted cat-objects. Square Paws would be responsible for the three lifeguard stands.
Each of the three stands would have identical bases and similar “sled” stands. But we designed each lifeguard structure to have a different form and detailing. One was a very simple geometric shape with an angled front and roof, all painted a soft Bahama blue. The second would be more rectangular in shape with more trimwork and would be painted red, white and blue, in keeping with one very iconic flag-like stand on South Beach. The third would be more “mid-Century modern” with rounded detailing and shades of yellow, orange, and red.
We wrapped and packed all three in our truck and drove them down to Miami Beach with a few days to install. We completed our work in late September, 2018, and the cafe opened sometime in November. Cat cafes are a genre unto themselves, and each one is slightly different. However, Celyta has created a truly zen locale, a one-of-a-kind space where it feels like a respite from the everyday world. I’m not just saying that because we have our work there. It’s really unique and calming to spend time with her cats.
But above all else, it is always a treat to visit the cafe and to see how many successful adoptions they have had since being open. As Celyta says, “the cat cafe is really ‘Shelter 2.0’. It’s the next form of getting the community to meet their new best friend.” You can feel the attention to detail, not just in the food and the coffee at The Cat Cafe South Beach, but in how the cats are treated, how they are cared for, and in how they screen potential adopters.
The Cat Cafe South Beach is located at 1423 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach, FL 33139, just south of Hispaniola Way. Call for operating hours and reservations at 305-397-8201.
Sadly, The Cat Cafe South Beach shuttered its doors permanently in August, 2022. It was incredibly heartbreaking for us because we know the love and dedication that Celyta put in to the cafe as a business, and we mourn the many furry lives she will not be able to get adopted in Miami Beach. We wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavors, and we honor her great work for all the hundreds of lives, both four-legged and two-legged, that she has changed forever.