Gibson’s Cat Café brings caffeine and cat adoption to Downtown Conway

By Becky Bell

Cats and Coffee sound like the most relaxing afternoon – purrfect.

And now people of Conway will be able to play with cats while sipping some cat-named concoctions with the opening of Gibson’s Cat Café in downtown Conway beginning September 24.

Shelby Blacksmith and her husband, Drew Blacksmith, decided the community would benefit from a place to get a caffeine fix while interacting with up to 20 cats who will also be up for adoption. That is except for the Blackman’s own little tuxedo cat, Fonzie.

Shelby Blacksmith rescued Gibson from the street during the snowstorm of 2021. She and husband, Drew, are opening Gibson’s Cat Café in Conway this month because they want to promote cat adoptions. Photo by Don Brazile.

“He will be staying in the café full time and will be a kind of kitty concierge for the other cats,” she said. “He is named after the character on Happy Days.”

The idea of having a cat café started for Shelby, 26, when she traveled to Vietnam and Thailand on a mission trip. She heard about the cafés there, and although she did not get to visit due to a strict schedule, she fell in love with the idea. Shelby did research and found out these types of feline getaways have been wildly popular in Asia since the 1980s.  

And there are places in the United States where they are popular as well such as Memphis, Tenn., and Branson, Mo. 

The Blacksmith’s were able to draw inspiration from the Mochas and Meows store in Branson and the owners answered a lot of questions they had about starting their own cat café. Shelby is planning to do cat murals inside the café, along with a Rainbow Bridge mural in a general area where people can come and honor their deceased pets by putting their collar on the wall. Shelby said she asked the owners if it would be OK if she duplicated the Rainbow Bridge wall in Conway, and they said yes. The mural is available to anyone, paying customers or not, Shelby said.

The way the café, at 808 Court Street, will work is that people will come in and pay based on how much time they want to spend with the cats. They can pay $4 for 15 minutes, $6 for 30 minutes, and $8 for an hour. Monthly memberships will be offered, but prices for this are not set yet. Kids 3 and under get in free.

Gibson’s Cat Café menu items include the Cattuccino, which is a cappuccino, Meowcchiato for a macchiato and a Pawtee for a latte. Visitors can also just grab a coffee, which does not have a cat name but is free for the first three cups with each kitty pass.

The café will sell bakery items from Conway’s Blue Barn Bakery, including gluten free and vegan options. 

Readers might wonder why the café is not named after Fonzie who will be on hand. The café is named after Shelby’s first cat, Gibson, who she found walking down the street during the huge snowstorm of 2021. 

“I have always been an animal person I’ll say with cats and dogs equally, but when we rescued Gibson, he absolutely converted me into being a cat person, and they have a way of doing that,” she said. “He is just so loving, and if I’m having a bad day or I’m sad, he will curl up on me and start purring. He is very intuitive.”

At the café, toys will be provided for play with the cats who live there–but it’s hopefully only a temporary home. Those who decide to make an adoption will receive a $90 gift basket with litter, food and toys from the nearby Neighborhood Pet Shoppe. 

The Blacksmiths are excited to see what the reaction to the café is, but they have a good feeling about it so far.

“It’s overwhelming. We have had close to 300 messages asking if we are hiring or taking volunteers,” she said. “People have been blowing up our Facebook and our Instagram. We have even had people saying they want to move back to Conway because of our café.”