Photos courtesy of Kira Goldfarb
Munchiecat is proud to support small and local businesses. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Kira Goldfarb, the founder of Cat on the Corner in Catskill, New York. In 2020, she opened her cat-themed gift and novelty store because she wanted to bring something new, fun, and unique to her hometown. She also wanted to attract cat lovers from near and far to visit, shop, and enjoy the scenic river city.
Goldfarb is also a professional cat sitter, and she has her own handmade pet accessory business called Kira’s Pet Shop. Using high-quality cotton fabrics with novelty prints like the Hanukkah menorah, she creates pet collars, leashes, and bandanas with tag slots. She also offers hand-stamped pet ID tags and engraved collar buckles.
Below the mom of four cats (and two dogs) shares what it’s like to juggle three small businesses while working through the coronavirus pandemic.
Why did you decide to open Cat on the Corner?
I opened Cat on the Corner for a few reasons. I obviously love cats. And in Catskill — a town settled by the Dutch, with the name meaning "cat creek" — it just seemed like the area wasn't capitalizing on the cat factor enough.
I’ve worked for small and local businesses here in Catskill my whole life, and I’ve run my own handmade shop on Etsy for the past 6 years. I thought I could bring something really unique and fun to our community by opening a cat-themed gift shop. In the age of Amazon and online shopping, brick-and-mortar retail really has to give the customer a unique experience to stand out and survive. I like to think Cat on the Corner offers that.
How did you get into making homemade collars, leashes, and bandanas on Etsy?
Kira's Pet Shop actually started in 2015 with my dog, Eva. She was my first dog, a rescue mutt from Puerto Rico. At 9 months old, she developed luxating patellas [or trick knees] and needed a $2,500 surgery on both knees to correct it. I had already started sewing bandanas for her to wear, so I started selling them online to help pay for her surgery. It grew from there. I expanded to dog and cat collars, leashes, etc. Eva had the surgery and made a full recovery. I've since had more than 11,000 sales and have shipped to over 30 countries.
How long have you been cat sitting?
I've been cat-sitting for about 10 years. I actually started a year before I had any cats of my own. I love all my kitty clients! Some are very friendly, some shy, some never warm up to me, but I just give each cat the space they need and attention when they want it.
Is there a cat-sitting experience that sticks out in your mind?
I did have one funny experience some years back when a client's unspayed cat went into heat for the first time while I was visiting her. I knew what was happening. But my client's mother happened to stop by during the day and ended up taking the cat to the emergency vet on a Sunday because she thought something was wrong with her! I got there that evening to no cat and a note about it. I had to call her and explain, but the vet had already told her by then. The cat was perfectly healthy, just a little...excited.
Have there been any cat-sitting challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic?
2020 was rough! I opened Cat on the Corner in February 2020 and had some cat-sitting visits lined up for the winter and spring. But by March everyone had canceled their trips, and then my shop had to close until June. I was lucky enough to have received some beginning rental assistance from the Catskill Local Development Corporation (and a very kind landlord). So, thankfully, my shop survived. Cat sitting was a bit slower to pick back up. But this past year has been busy on both fronts, particularly since so many people have moved upstate from NYC in the last year.
Has the supply chain crisis or the increase in United States Postal Service (USPS) rates affected your business?
Thankfully, I haven't been affected much by USPS rate changes, as most of my sales at Cat on the Corner are in store, and everything I ship on Etsy is lightweight. And since I buy from mostly independent brands, I haven't had as much trouble getting products as some businesses have.
Can you tell us more about The Cat's Meow Auction and Gala that you went to in September 2021?
For the last 15 years, the Heart of Catskill Association (HOCA) has sponsored a program where different artists design various cat statues placed around Catskill. They’re mostly down Main Street, but there are a few scattered further out. Each cat is sponsored by a business. It gets to have its name on the plaque and two tickets to the Gala.
This year, Cat on the Corner sponsored the "LEGO My Cat" statue. It was designed by artist Stephen Martin and covered head to toe in LEGO bricks. The statues are put up around Memorial Day, and they stay up all summer, attracting new and repeat visitors. People love to see all the new cat designs each year. At the end of the season, they're auctioned off at the Gala, and the proceeds are split between the HOCA, the artists, and local scholarships. The auction prices start at $500 for each cat, and they can go for up to more than $2,500.
Cat on the Corner features items from more than 50 small and local businesses. Why is it important to shop small?
Shopping small is so important, now more than ever. Large corporations are making record profits, but shopping with them won't help our local economies as much as supporting small, local, independently-owned ones. This helps keep the money circulating through our communities.
As a small business owner, I have so much appreciation for every person who chooses to step in my door over ordering from Walmart or Amazon. Bonus — a lot of my inventory isn't sold on Amazon! When people shop within their local communities, they're supporting their friends, neighbors, schools, etc. As a handmade business owner, I wanted to support other shops in the ways I'd like to be supported. So I stock a lot of brands that are independently-owned, often sole proprietorships run by women like myself.
Selling their items in my shop helps all of us, and it allows me to offer many items that you won't find in other stores. For example, I have keychains from a woman in Singapore; tote bags from an artist in Thailand; earrings from a friend in Wyoming; and pins from a husband and wife duo in California; etc. By shopping with me, my customers are supporting real people from all over the world who are just trying to make a living doing what they love.
How is Cat on the Corner changing the cat owner stereotype?
When people hear the term "cat lady", they picture an older, lonely, single woman with too many cats and a smelly house. But that's not what we're about! Cats are amazing companions. They're family. And the majority of cat owners have a reasonable number and a (reasonably) clean house. Having cats doesn't make you messy, lonely, or "crazy".
And with the advent of the internet, I think we're all learning more about our shared love for these soft, playful, funny little creatures. Even just the increased availability of cat-themed merchandise — notably, with modern designs that appeal more to younger generations — suggests a move towards embracing the title of "cat lady" or "cat dad".
Our kitty companions make our lives so much better. They help with loneliness, depression, and boredom. They fulfill a desire to share our love with others and care for something beyond ourselves. So I believe by offering a space geared towards cat people, Cat on the Corner helps to confirm the idea that there is nothing bad or "crazy" about loving cats — because so, so many of us do.
What are the most popular items in your shop?
Popular items in the shop this year have ranged from the litter scoop earrings from Layers by Design to the sauce packet catnip toys, from Polydactyl to our Catskill-themed stickers and magnets, and Japanese blind box "cat caps". It's really a good mix of cat-themed gifts and toys for cats. People love the cards from La Familia Green, the puzzles from Mudpuppy, and the mugs from Lenny Mud. And of course, the Cat Butt Coloring Book is a popular one! With hundreds of products in the shop, there's a ton to choose from. So it's always fun to see which items appeal to each person.
Cat on the Corner (across from The Community Theatre and Kirwan's Game Store)
362 Main Street
Catskill, New York 12414
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.