Meet the Shop Cats of Olympia

Olympia shop cat Dave, an orange tabby cat lying on the counter at Weiks Wild Bird Shop
Dave at Weiks Wild Bird Shop and Elle’s Floral Design was adopted from the local animal shelter. Photo credit: Mandy Burnside

Olympia has shop cats eliciting ear scratches from their fan base and giving back joy and therapeutic snuggles. At Weiks Wild Bird Shop and Elle’s Floral Design, customers may find Dave the shop cat lounging comfortably in his countertop bed, basking in a sunbeam or stretched full length in the middle of the floor. Otto is one of a legacy of shop cats in residence at the Jamie Lee & Company hair salon. And, if you’ve stopped into Orca Books Co-op, you may have seen Orlando in his favorite spot, a big orange chair between the witchcraft section and world history.

Olympia Pet Emergency logo 2018Olympia Shop Cat Watches over Weiks Wild Bird Shop

A cat residing at a wild bird food shop is unexpected, but don’t worry. Shop kitty Dave is more of a dreamer than a hunter.

“We have bird feeders and squirrel feeders all around the perimeter,” says Mandy Burnside, manager and florist at the Elle’s and Weiks location. “He really just likes to hide in the bushes and thinks he can catch something, but he never does.”

Michelle Weiks owns the bird shop and Elle’s, which coexist under the same roof, as well as Artistry in Flowers in Tumwater. Both locations have had shop cats, and the Tumwater floral shop has previously been home to three: Henry, Cleveland and Bud.

“It’s definitely good for morale,” Weiks says. “We all take turns hanging out with the cat.”

Olympia shop cat Dave lounging on his back with legs stretched out
Dave, at Weiks Wild Bird Shop, may be found lounging comfortably in his countertop bed, basking in a sunbeam or stretched full length in the middle of the floor. Photo credit: Mandy Burnside

Weiks’ father, Jim Soares, saw Dave while making a floral delivery to the animal shelter. The encounter sealed the deal, and Dave returned with Soares to the shop where the orange tabby has lived ever since.

“He is the sweetest thing, very loving,” Burnside says. “He’s got a heart of gold and a very loud purr. He can always tell the cat people and will go right up to them.”

Dave tries to involve himself in Burnside’s work when she is making corsages with a hot glue gun. To keep him safely out of the way, she puts him in a Baby Björn-type sling where he relaxes while she completes the flower arrangements.

“People just love interacting with Dave,” Burnside says. “He’s definitely a conversation piece and always so sweet to everyone. Some people that aren’t allowed to have cats, or their partner is allergic, come in and get their snuggles from Dave. He’s like a support animal for a lot of our customers.”

Olympia Shop Cat is Orca Books Furriest Cooperative Member

In residence since 2012, Orlando is a gray tabby named for the main character in Virginia Woolf’s novel titled “Orlando.” Originally a rescue, Orlando has called both bookstore locations home where he has a positive effect on morale, making both shoppers and workers happy.

Olympia shop cat Orlando standing in a book shelf at Orca Books
Orlando has been a resident of Orca Books since 2012. He is named after the main character in Virginia Woolf’s novel titled ‘Orlando.’ Photo courtesy: Orca Books

“Some people come in just to say hi to Orlando,” Sierra Templeton, Orca Books worker member says. “There’s an understanding that you can just come in to say hi to him, and that’s fine too. But, you know, a lot of people also grab a book on the way out. He has a fan club for sure.”

Generally mellow, Orlando is also known for periodic bursts of energy, hiding in packaging materials and hanging out in the donated book boxes. Pulling security watch as a mouse catcher is not his forte. Rather he’s said to be more of an observer, preferring to watch dogs and the outdoors from a distance.

“He really lifts the spirits,” Templeton says. “He demands respect in the morning. I have to give him that attention in the morning, or else he will sit on our keyboards. It slows down my morning for sure, but it’s also a moment of morning meditation. He’s very sweet and it is a joy to have a cat in the store.”

Jamie Lee & Company’s Olympia Shop Cat has Style

Customers come in for styles and haircuts, but a certain gray tabby named Otto draws people in too. Whether he’s occupying a client’s lap during a haircut, spending time in his kitty tower or monitoring the front work counter, Otto is said to be full of love.

Olympia shop cat Otto being held by Jamie Lee at Jamie Lee & Company hair salon
Jamie Lee of Jamie Lee & Company holds Otto in the 4th Avenue hair salon he calls home. Otto is known to sit on customers’ laps while they get their hair done. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

“Even people that are allergic like it,” says Jamie Lee, owner of Jamie Lee & Company. “They love cats, but they just can’t have cats at home. When they come in here, they’re wearing a cape and don’t get cat hair on their clothes. They just wash their hands, and they go home.”

Jamie Lee & Company opened in 1995 and was soon home to shop cats Whisper and Pierre. The next generation was Otto and his brother kitten, Smithfield, who were adopted at the animal shelter. Lee named the kittens in honor of two former, local businesses, Otto’s Bagels and the Smithfield Café. Being the long-time resident that he is, customers and visitors alike have developed a relationship with Otto, bringing him treats and stopping in to visit.

“Sometimes we call him our mascot, but he’s also like kitty therapy,” Lee says. “People having a bad day come in and say, ‘Where’s Otto?’ We have a few people that stop by almost every day just to see the cat.”

It’s clear that Otto, Orlando, Dave and their predecessors have warmed the hearts of their owners, business patrons and many a visitor who just needed some cat time. Stop by these locally-owned businesses and meet the shop cats of Olympia for yourself.

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