Kanchan Singh is back in the customer-kitten cuddling business.
The local entrepreneur opened Crumbs & Whiskers, Washington’s first cat café, on O Street in Georgetown in 2015, and it proved so popular that a year later she opened a second location in West Hollywood, California, and in 2019 a third location on Georgetown’s M Street. All were shuttered early on in the pandemic last year.
The O Street location did not survive, but the M Street Crumbs & Whiskers will have a grand reopening June 26, with a weeklong soft opening starting June 22. (The Los Angeles location also reopens this month.)
Before opening Crumbs & Whiskers, Singh had visited a cat café in Thailand and loved the idea. She came back to D.C., quit her job, launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised about $36,000 to start the business.
The concept is straightforward. Singh works with local animal rescue group Homeward Trails to baby sit cats and kittens — up to 25 at a time — and customers stop by for a coffee and a snack and to play with them. The ultimate goal is for some of those customers to fall in love and adopt them.
Crumbs & Whiskers has saved thousands cats and kittens from euthanasia. It has also donated $41,000 to charity.
As with any business struck by the pandemic, especially for more than a year, it hasn’t been easy to get back to kitten cuddling. Singh says the business survived for a couple of reasons.
“We had government (emergency funding) help, and our COVID-19 fund, where our patrons helped support us financially with donations,” Singh said. “We have endured significant losses in the past 14 months as a company, and we hope to be able to recover over time.”
The kittens and cats in residence at the time of closing early last year were all placed in foster homes within the first few weeks of closing.
It has also been a challenging 14 months for Singh personally.
“I always held hope and optimism that we’d reopen again, but I knew that we wouldn’t be able to reopen for a long time, though I didn’t think it would be this long. Like so many others, there’s been anxiety, fear and a lot of stress, which I managed in the way I usually manage those things — with therapy, meditation, and time in nature,” Singh said.
Before the pandemic, many customers — some of them regulars — weren’t coming to adopt a cat. Some cat lovers came because their boyfriends were allergic to them, others for stress relief, and still others to enjoy a cat’s company without the responsibility of owning one.
Pet adoptions soared during the pandemic, many of them rescue cats, a trend that may continue.
Crumbs & Whiskers, at 3109 M St. NW, will be open from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, though it will be closed on Tuesdays, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays through Sundays, with a post-COVID maximum capacity of 16 customers.
Fun fact: Singh’s business turned up in a New York Times crossword puzzle on Sept. 1, 2019. The clue for No. 111 across read “Establishment such as Crumbs & Whiskers.” The seven-letter answer was “cat café.”