A new boutique in Emmaus will undoubtedly become the cat’s meow.
Purring house, 27 S. Seventh St., features what owner Laurie Mason describes as “the best things for cats and the people who love them.” The store opened on November 27 across from the CVS drive-thru in a space that previously housed an office and before that, an antique store. Its name is a nod to the rich German-American history of the Lehigh Valley.
For felines, Purr Haus offers a wide selection of cat supplies including beds, bowls, transport cages and toys. For human companions, there are cat-themed clothing and accessories, such as t-shirts, dresses, leggings, and winter hats, as well as glassware, greeting cards, and umbrellas. .
A section is devoted to cat treats, such as dried sardines and tuna flakes. Another section has handy grooming supplies for bathing and brushing with shampoo and holistic flea prevention solutions.
Items that customers might struggle to find at big box retailers include matching blankets for owners and their cats and organic catnip toys adorned with images from popular TV shows like “The Golden Girls “and” Schitt’s Creek “. The store also has a cat backpack with a window, which makes cats look like astronauts when they go to the vet.
There are also household items decorated by local artists who donate a portion of their profits to animal shelters, and products that encourage domestic cats to free their inner tiger while playing. Guests listen to cat-themed tunes such as “Kitty Kat” by Beyonce and “What’s New Pussycat” by Tom Jones. A sign that says “Tell me about your cats” prompts buyers to share personal stories with Mason.
“Customers’ eyes light up when they see it, and we always have a good conversation,” said Mason, a Bucks County native now living in Upper Milford Township. “They show me pictures and we laugh at their silly antics. When you think about it, there really aren’t many places where “cat people” can talk to others who share their passion. “
On one occasion, Mason allowed a cat to roam freely in the store during a private meeting with a customer. The kitten chose his own bed, toys and backpack, Mason said.
Mason and her husband, Tim Schroeder, have always described themselves as cat lovers, possessing them for decades throughout their lives. The couple currently own four cats and are welcoming three more through the Lehigh Valley-based nonprofit Starting Over Animal Rescue (SOAR).
But they’ll tell you that it wasn’t until 2011 that they found a new passion in rescuing homeless cats across the Lehigh Valley.
When buying their first home, Mason found a cat in the garden with three newborn kittens. Before she could find a way to catch the wild cats and get them adopted, the mother cat was pregnant again. Mason and Schroeder found no luck in helping area animal shelters, with most telling them they were full or had empty bank accounts, Mason said.
“As someone who has always considered themselves to be knowledgeable about cats, it was humbling to learn how unfamiliar with the rescue world I was,” Mason said. “We see stray cats roaming free in our communities and believe they survive by catching mice and living their best life outdoors. The reality is that most of them starve, die of illnesses and get hit by cars. It is a mostly miserable existence, made worse by overpopulation.
Eventually, a friend with lifesaving ties helped Mason trap the cat and place her in foster care, where she then safely delivered the kittens. Mason kept the two remaining kittens inside.
“Kittens born outside are in pain,” Mason said. “The volunteers who trap these cats and get them vaccinated and treated are angels on Earth who don’t get the support they deserve.”
As a reporter working for local newspapers, Mason was able to write articles about Lehigh Valley animal welfare organizations. She started out as a teacher, but a journalism course took her to write while attending Bucks County Community College. Mason obtained an associate’s degree in liberal arts in 1996.
Sometimes there were harsher reports with similar messages about rescuing animals. One of them left an impression on Mason when she covered the story of Nemo, a pig, who escaped a devastating fire in a barn that killed 4,000 animals in Lynn Township in 2019.
Mason has also taken refuge with his pets after a long day in the newsroom covering the latest news. Sometimes the only thing that would allow her to decompress enough to sleep was to hold a purring cat in her lap, she said.
“I often joke that when I write my autobiography I’m going to call it ‘From Murder to Meow’,” Mason said, referring to his coverage of homicide cases. “I have spoken to a lot of people who find having cats around to be therapeutic.
Last year, Mason retired from the newspaper industry to help him achieve his goal of opening the store. It was something on her mind ever since she attended a cat convention in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 2008 with her husband.
At the convention, there were crowds of people lining up to enter. Vendors made quick sales on cat supplies in small lots. Mason saw a need for something similar in the area, noting that some places carry aisle after aisle dog supplies with just a corner dedicated to cat goods.
“I realized that… ‘cat people’ like me enjoyed shopping alongside like-minded people for products that were not only cool, but also supported a cause,” Mason said.
At the store, Mason works hard to find merchandise that sets her apart from the competition.
She bought ‘Dezi and Roo’ cat toys, which are designed by vets, as well as t-shirts from ‘Kites’, a California company owned by a woman who donates a percentage of her profits to deathless shelters. .
The main business is currently brick and mortar, Mason said. This allows it to change inventory frequently while supporting small batch manufacturers who cannot process orders large enough for online sales. Plus, shopping in the store, she said, is an “experience” and not something you can do online.
Mason plans to integrate more cat rescue missions into the business. She invites rescue groups to visit a few adoptable kittens on specific days in an area outside of the store. Groups also have the option of leaving educational brochures and recruiting members.
Mason also wants to partner with other local businesses, such as breweries, for cat rescue fundraisers. She also plans to donate a portion of each sale of Purr Haus t-shirts and baseball caps to a cat rescue organization.
“Cats are a passionate breed. They not only care about their own pets, but are also concerned about the plight of all cats, ”Mason said. “I imagine Purr Haus will eventually become a hub for the Valley cat community. A place where you can buy an awesome new toy for your cat, or a fun cat themed gift for a friend, while learning how to help local cats in need.
The boutique is open from 11 am to 7 pm Wednesday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays; and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann can be reached at [email protected].