On a mission to create a unique and welcoming space for their community, Clairessa Winters and Sydney Leeper, the owners of Cat’s Closet are excited to open their one-of-a-kind establishment on Saturday. Located on S Pete Ellis Dr, Cat's Closet isn't a typical vintage shop, it's a combination of sustainable fashion and feline-friendly fun.
Black and queer-owned, Cat's Closet has a vintage shopping area and a playroom where customers can hang out with adoptable cats.
Winters and Leeper started their entrepreneurial journey during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by their love for thrifted fashion and a strong desire to help cats in need. They initially operated a vintage pop-up shop, but their passion to help led them to expand their vision into a permanent storefront.
"We always knew we wanted to do something involving cats," Winters said. "Ever since we visited our first cat cafe in 2021, we realized our passion was not only for vintage fashion but also for rescuing and finding loving homes for cats."
Their dream of creating a cat cafe came to life when they stumbled upon the idea of combining their vintage shop with a cat lounge. The concept was a perfect fit, bridging two seemingly unrelated niches and allowing them to introduce people to new experiences.
"Queer people love fashion, and queer people love cats," Leeper points out. "It goes hand in hand, and we wanted to offer a space where both fashion enthusiasts and cat lovers could come together."
Their partnership with the Bloomington Animal Shelter is at the heart of Cat's Closet's mission. The shelters support their venture, as it helps them find foster homes for the many cats that pass through their doors.
"We're fostering cats in our storefront, creating a comfortable environment for them while introducing potential adopters to them," Winters said. "Our goal is to get as many cats adopted as possible and reduce the stray cat population in Bloomington."
Cat's Closet is more than just a place to adopt cats and shop for unique fashion pieces. It aims to be a true community hub, offering a variety of programs and events for people of all ages, from bingo and trivia nights to art and vintage markets.
"We want to create a safe haven for teens and families in our community," Leeper said. "Whether you're having a hard day, need a break from studying or just want to enjoy some quality time with cats, our lounge is open to all."
Cat's Closet also focuses on promoting sustainable and eco-friendly fashion choices.
They host "Fill-A-Bag" sales, allowing customers to bring their bags and fill them with clothes for five dollars. They also offer a wide range of vintage and modern pieces, ensuring affordability and inclusivity by sourcing their products from local thrift stores and individuals, to make sustainable fashion accessible to all.
As they prepare for their grand opening, Winters and Leeper want to share their advice with aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Take your time, don't be afraid to ask for help, and remember, it's okay to fail," Winters said. "We've faced setbacks and challenges, but the journey has been worth it.”
At the grand opening of Cat's Closet on Oct. 7, people can join the community, shop for eco-friendly clothes, and meet cute cats--all in one place.