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The seven cats of downtown Hastings

Sissy lounges on the keyboard of Second Childhood’s computer. (Photos by Lauren Siebenaler)

Tenants come and go in the living spaces above the downtown Hastings stores, and sometimes their little feline friends get left behind.

When they see cats in the stores, "people always say, 'ew, do these stores have mice?' No! They're all rescue cats and I think that's awesome," said Barb Hollenbeck, owner of Second Childhood.

As of now, there are seven cats who call the stores of downtown their home. Tenacious K's has two cats, Smokey and Furby, Berens Jewelry has Thomas, Secondhand Childhood has Slinky and Sissy, and Vintage Inspirations has Sofi and Elle.

"I haven't pet a cat in so long," said one customer at Second Childhood, "I just have to get a little cat snuggles in. She's very accommodating to all the people here."

The owners and workers of the downtown stores have taken in many cats over the years. When the recession hit in 2008, there was a peak in pets being left behind, all of which the stores found living arrangements for. There's always a search for the rightful owner after a cat has been found, but if no one reclaims them, the cats find homes with someone new.

"They couldn't find the owner of Sissy," Hollenbeck said. "My husband looked at me and said, 'they found the owner, and it's you!'"

All of the cats downtown are rescues in one way or another. Slinky and Sissy were found locally like the cats in Berens Jewelry and Tenacious K's. Teea Orner of Vintage Inspirations has found cats around her store as well, but also works closely with the Animal Ark and an organization named SCRAM (Stray Cat Rescue Associates of Minnesota.) Orner has fostered cats in her store and found many great homes for the ones that pounce through her door.

"Through SCRAM, I had a momma and three kittens in my store last spring," Orner said. "The organizations takes them, has them all fixed and all that type of stuff. When they were ready to be adopted, they take them to PetSmart and thoroughly screen adoptive parents. However, these cats never made it that far. Momma and the three were adopted right out of the store here."

"I was involved with the humane society when I had a store downtown," said Daryl Donath, who owned Peddler's Landing. "I would bring in cats for adoption. I had one cat until it got adopted free range like these cats. I did excellent adoptions and quite a few adoptions."

The rescue cats have made great pets over the years for the stores and adoptive families. Orner receives appreciative emails and texts from her past families that rave about their feline friends.

"I would say 97 percent of people love the cats in the stores," Orner said. "Elle likes to climb up on people's shoulders and go around the store with them. It's just so funny because everybody thinks that they're special because she does that to them. People carry her around the store with them and then ask to take them home."

Most of the customers enjoy the company of the cats, but it's the store owners who have been impacted the most by them and their journeys.

"We just lost one of our rescue cats," said Tony Berens, Owner of Beren's Jewelry and Tenacious K's. "Sixteen years ago, we found her in front of what is now Edward D. Jones. She was in a box with her eyes matted shut. Somebody just put her out there and she was going to die. My wife is sad about losing her, but we gave her 16 good years."

The cats have unique personalities and interesting stories telling how they got where they are. Thomas has Berens Jewelry to himself because he doesn't get along with other cats, and Sofi at Vintage Inspirations got her name because she was found in a sofa outside in the winter time.

"Sofi we found in the back alley behind Chrysalis," Orner said. "We figure she came from one of the apartment people upstairs. She was living in a sofa to stay warm because it was that polar vortex winter. So we took her in and I told Barb across the street that if anyone was looking for her, that we had her where she was warm, getting fed and being taken care of. Nobody came looking for her. So we've kept her! She was in rough shape."

"Slinky had to be named after a classic toy," Hollenbeck said. "He was left behind at the Riviera and the manager tried to give him a home and he jumped out of a second story window to be on his own. He has a wildness to him."

"You should see Thomas during the car shows," Berens said, "he's upside down in the windows, laying on his back with his tongue hanging out. What the people can't figure out is that he's snoring."

The three owners take pride in the forever homes they've provided for these pets and encourage their customers to make friends with the felines.

"You can come in and get a kitty fix any day," Hollenbeck said.