Wired Whisker Cat Café, Duluth’s first cat-adoption coffee shop, opening later this year

Misha Smith stands outside the future home of Wired Whisker Cat Café, 1823 E. Superior St. The building served as home to Endion Square Children’s Center for 33 years. (Photo by Mark Nicklawske)

Duluth will soon see its first cat café open with a special lounge where customers can drink coffee and meet the “purr-fect” adoptable pet.

Jungle North Holdings purchased the former Endion Square Children’s Center, 1823 E. Superior St., in November and is currently directing a full building renovation. St. Louis County records show the new owners paid $216,000 for the 1,800-square-foot property.

Endion Square Children’s Center had operated at the location since 1990.

Owner Misha Smith said she will open Wired Whisker Cat Café in the space this spring. It will be the first cat café north of the Twin Cities.

Wired Whisker Cat Café will operate as a standard neighborhood coffee shop with a front bar serving hot drinks, beer, wine and fresh baked treats, said Smith. A glass wall will separate the back part of the building and house a collection of cats hand picked from Animal Allies rescue shelter. Customers paying a small fee will gain access to the back room where they can socialize with the cats as long as they wish.

Maybe call it “The Meow Lounge”?

Smith has worked for a decade in the cybersecurity industry as a marketing and graphic design specialist but she said cats slowly took over her life. Smith and her husband served in a feline foster care program for years in the Twin Cities before recently moving to Duluth. The couple now has five foster cats.

“It’s super rewarding,” she said. I just thought: ‘Man, this is giving me such soul food.’ We just wanted to do that for a living and share that with people.”

Misha Smith holds Violet, a cat she rescued in 2019. (Submitted photo)

Smith decided she wanted to start her own cat café. Lincoln Park was considered for a location but it already had numerous coffee shops. She said businesses are more spread out in the Endion neighborhood. Students from the University of Minnesota Duluth live nearby and Superior Street is a busy transportation corridor with a bus line. The new coffee shop will feature Positively 3rd Street Bakery treats and special event collaborations with the Loch Café & Games and Amazing Alonzo Bookstore nearby are in the works.

Smith plans to make Wired Whisker her full-time job and relocating homeless animals her mission.

“Another big piece of it is I know how overburdened shelters are everywhere,” she said. “So cat cafés provide an extension to restaurants and stats show they actually have a higher adoption rate than shelters. So if we’re able to get cats into loving, forever homes more quickly, that allows our rescue shelters like Animal Allies to (do) more intake.”

Animal Allies Executive Director Julie Waltenburg said her organization is looking forward to working with Smith.

“Her project is great and it’s something that Duluth has wanted for a long time,” she said. “We are a local humane society and so we’re always looking to partner with other organizations. So once they are open we’ll be partnering and helping with some of the cats.”

Animal Allies Adoption Program Manager Nicole Facciotto worked with Smith to set up the project.

“We’ve had multiple people present the idea of a cat café to us before, but Wired Whisker was the first to really present a well thought out plan, and have someone behind it who has worked in cat rescue,” wrote in an Facciotto in an email. “This is a learning process for everyone as there are a lot of small pieces that need to be put in place to make everything a smooth success, but we are excited to be a part of this project.”

Facciotto said Wired Whisker will give Animal Allies, located just off Rice Lake Road at Airport Road, a second location for adoption services. “This will hopefully expand our reach and allow more people to learn about our mission and meet with adoptable pets,” she said.

Facciotto has never been to a cat café so she is eager to see Wired Whisker open. There are two cat cafés in the Twin Cities.

“Cats add such a fun and comforting energy to environments,” she said. “So I think they will make this local coffee shop a must visit.”

Wired Whisker Cat Café, the smaller structure at left, is located at 1823 E. Superior St. in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood. The building was constructed in 1956 and used as offices for EIMCO Corporation, an international mining manufacturing company.

Smith expects to have a variety of cats available to meet. She said one week could feature a litter of kittens, other times a number of select older cats. “It does need to be taken on an individual cat basis,” she said. “So I will be personality checking all these cats to make sure that they thrive in our environment, regardless of age. They need to have that social, ‘I want to be in the stimulus with more humans’ (temperament).”

Customers can book visiting times online or just walk up if there is availability in the lounge. The cat lounge will seat between 8-10 people. Admission prices haven’t been set yet but are expected to run between $5 and $10 per hour.

Smith said in addition to paid staff, she will be looking for volunteers to greet customers, introduce them to the animals and manage cat care inside the lounge for a few hours during the day.

Wired Whisker will serve Kitty Town Coffee, an East Coast brand that donates part of its profits to cat rescue. Food trucks will be allowed to park in the street during warmer months and the building could be used for yoga classes after hours. Smith said she wants the coffee shop to appeal to a broad audience, not just cat lovers.

“I hope this becomes just a new hub for people to hang out,” said Smith. “So we hope that this serves a large audience and serves as a cool, lively hub … this kind of after-work-book-club-meet-up-for-a-glass-of-wine-or-two place.”

According to Duluth street directories, the building was constructed in 1956 and used as a Duluth office for the EIMCO Corporation, an international mining manufacturing company, into the 1970s. It housed a stained glass studio and window display business in the 1980s before Endion Square Children’s Center used the space for 33 years.

Smith gutted the building and is updating its utilities. A dog patio is under construction outside for those who enjoy pets that bark. A cat camera will be installed for both security and 24/7 live streaming. Cats will live at Wired Whisker until they are adopted or moved to another facility.

“My job is to create an environment where cats can thrive and people can see their true personalities to find the perfect match,” Smith said.



about 2 months ago

If you're already in $1,000,000 between purchase and renovation of a new rural home and separate commercial property, you'd think one could find local beans and a local shelter for donations?


about 2 months ago

I can’t wait for this to open!  What a great way to boost the economy and find homes for awesome cats at the same time!

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