Jessica & Justin Cruz, opened the doors to Beans Cat Cafe, Beacon's first ever, on Main Street in 2020. I had the privilege to sit with these two owners & lovebirds (seriously though, they were too cute) to learn about their entrepreneurial journey- putting the happiness of their cats and customers above all else, even their own wedding!
MSB: So, why a cat cafe in Beacon?
Jessica: Well, cats and coffee are my two favorite things! Also, Justin and I had visited a cat cafe in Red Hook years ago, and it was something we had always talked about doing down the road. We started looking for a location in New Paltz, but then I thought, ‘we never called the town of Beacon!’ We really love it here and they had nothing like this. Once we found this space everything just went really smoothly. It was kinda funny trying to explain the cat cafe concept to the city though!
Jessica, very much the ‘business brain’ of the operation, has an education in business management plus years of restaurant management under her belt. Justin has a slightly different background and while he helps Jessica run the cafe, he has another job working at the Anderson Center for Autism. (Talk about a power couple!)
Justin: I work most days at the Center, but I come here and help out whenever I can...and of course, on my days off.
It sounds like a lot of work, but there is zero disdain in his voice as he shoots a loving glance at Jessica. It’s obvious Justin takes great pride helping and watching his wife build out this dream business.
The cafe has cat-themed baked goods and (truly delicious) speciality coffee drinks- all inspired by the gaggle of kitties roaming freely in the Cat Lounge, a separate room filled with toys, soft cat beds, and a sunny windowsill for the cats to perch on. Customers can pay a small fee to mingle in the Cat Lounge with these furry friends as they sip their warm drinks- it’s truly a unique experience.
Jessica: All of our cats are adoptable, too!
Jessica says with a sly smile, as a particularly friendly feline (who I learned later is named ‘Chirpie’) plops down on the table next to me, purring while I scratch his ears. I was really starting to get how awesome this place is & it was hard to believe they haven’t even been open a full year yet.
Jessica: We officially opened the cafe doors in November 2020.
This was at the peak of the pandemic and the expected challenges of that timing were certainly not lost on J & J. However, they explain that there was an unexpected upside to NY state shutdowns at the time - and it actually helped their business take off.
Justin: In a weird way, opening during that time helped our business, because a lot of the other cat shelters in this area were shut down. We were open and had adoptable cats here, so people were coming in hoping to adopt from us. It drove more traffic to us, in regards to potential adopters.
MSB: Did other shelters that were shut down reach out to you, to take some of their cats?
Jessica: Well, not exactly. We work exclusively with the Hudson Valley Animal Rescue over in Poughkeepsie, but they get cats from shelters all over. So sometimes we’ll get cats all the way from South Carolina through them or from a place called ‘Dumped and Abandoned Cats of Orange County.’
MSB: Okay, pulling at my heartstrings right now!
Jessica: I know, that name (Dumped and Abandoned Cats) really pulls at your heart!
Jessica explains that they keep their process of acquiring cats streamlined, since it takes a lot of legwork to prepare each cat for safe adoption. Every cat goes through a list of medical checks and clearances - making sure they are tagged, spayed/neutered, microchipped, and fully vaccinated while they wait for their new home.
MSB: Sounds like you take the adoption process pretty seriously?!
Jessica: Oh my god, of course! I’ve had customers come in at 4pm on a Friday and say ‘I want to adopt a cat and I want to take it home today!’ But they don’t realize we have a whole process to make sure the cat goes to a safe home- I work with a private attorney and we always try our best to move things along quickly, but it can take up to a few days. So we always recommend, if you’re sure you want to adopt, fill out our online application first before coming in so it speeds up the process.
( PSSSSST, you can reach out to Jessica directly for an application: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Opening Beacon’s first cat cafe - and one of the only cat cafes of this caliber in the Hudson Valley- was no doubt, a challenge in itself. So, I was curious how other businesses on Main Street reacted to their arrival.
Jessica: Oh everyone was so nice! We got such a sweet welcome letter from the owners of King & Curated (a custom fine jewelry store east end of Main Street), and the couple that runs Happy Valley (a retro arcade bar&eatery at the center of Main Street) sent us a letter and stopped by to introduce themselves and welcome us. It’s been so great!
MSB: It sounds like you hit success pretty early on. Was it hard to find the help you needed to run the place?
Jessica: Not really, we had some people reach out to us via social media that loved our concept and wanted to work here right away. People love cats! So finding help wasn’t really an issue, but we are still running like a start up. We make sure to let our employees know that their hours may fluctuate depending on how business goes. We’re doing great now, but it’s hard to forecast out too far during this pandemic.
Justin: Yeah, we like to be as transparent as possible- with our employees and our customers. It just forms much better relationships.
Well, I dig that- A sign of great leadership. Also, in the spirit of being transparent…
MSB: So, you’re newlyweds. When did you get married?
Jessica: Actually, in October of last year (2020). We’d been engaged since 2018 and as we had started planning for the wedding a little bit but we quickly realized how expensive everything was going to cost.
Justin: Weddings are sooo expensive!
Justin says this exasperatedly while rubbing his forehead. Jessica smiles at him and they both share a laugh.
MSB: Wait, so you got married the month after opening the cafe? (as someone who planned her own wedding, this seemed like an impossible feat)
Jessica: Yep! We had been thinking of opening the cafe since 2019 and when my job got put on hold in early 2020, I told myself I have to do this now or never! So, we basically invested all the money we were going to spend on the wedding, to open the cafe.
MSB: Wow, talk about reprioritizing! So what did you end up doing for the wedding?
Jessica: One day (last fall) I just texted Justin ‘what are we going to do?’ and we decided to do something small with just direct family. So, we reached out to them (our families) and got everyone on board. Three weeks later, we had the wedding. Of course, (with such short notice) everyone thought we were pregnant!
MSB: I can imagine that’s where people’s heads would go!
Justin: We had a small outdoor wedding with our family up in the Catskills. The Catskills in the fall are just so gorgeous!
MSB: Can’t argue there! I’m so glad you two were able to finally tie the knot after all that waiting!
Jessica goes on to talk about her wedding dress- a subject I’d be happy to chat for hours about, but I wanted to spare Justin the boredom ;) She tells me she actually got her dress here in Beacon, at Lamb’s Hill.
Jessica: Their (Lamb’s Hill) dresses are so gorgeous and they were so nice there. When I tried my dress on for the first time, I definitely got my princess moment!
MSB: Awe...and supporting local business, even in your nuptials. Love it.
I couldn't’ help but picture the happy couple exchanging vows with a backdrop of Catskill foliage behind them. Their focus has been fully on the cafe for years now, and it's clear that their relationship has adjusted effortlessly to their journey becoming successful business owners.
Certainly, their success stems from their shared work ethic- with a dash of lucky timing. But the secret sauce of their success isn’t a well-crafted business plan or the undeniable cuteness of their cats... The Beans Cat Cafe thrives because Jessica and Justin treat their business the way they treat each, with respect, devotion, and love.
*Beans Cat Cafe has successfully found safe & loving homes for 129 cats (and counting!) Visit their website: www.BeansCatCafe.com & stop by to say hi to Jessica and Justin Cruz at the cafe in Beacon: 325 Main St, Beacon, NY 12508, Open: Wednesday-Sunday, 9am-6pm*