Back in 1999, when Spoonbill and Sugartownbegan, they didn't have a storefront. They had a loft out of which they were selling books online while patiently looking for a storefront to showcase their wares. It was in that loft that the two cats of Spoonbill and Sugartown first made their home.
Rainer and Hayes were both adopted from Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition on Wythe Avenue. (They have always been Williamsburg cats; they were there before it was cool.) Hayes is a handsome tuxedo cat, and Rainer is a tabby who won a battle with cancer three years ago, but lost his leg to the illness. Both cats are 13 years old.
During my visit to the store, owner Jonas Kyle was excited to talk. He disappeared for a minute and quickly returned with a yellow pack of American Spirits filled with catnip. He explained that Hayes loves the stuff, whereas Rainer is hardly affected by it. Jonas often tries giving Hayes catnip and other treats when he feels uneasy around customers, but the amount must be rationed as Hayes is prone to vomiting.
“He destroys like a thousand dollars a year in books,” Jonas told me. His owners have tried to give Hayes medicine to prevent his vomiting, but it persists. Once, a regular customer also fed Hayes flowers in attempt at being poetic. Sickened by the artistic façade, Hayes upchucked a gigantic pool.
Looking for the cats around the store, Jonas and I were able to find Rainer right away. He was hiding under a shelf by the register, one of his usual spots. It was a little harder to find Hayes, who wanders in and out of the store, almost uncertain about whether or not he enjoys being in the middle of things. Eventually, we did find him and were able to lure him out with two leaves of catnip. He became tipsy and made a tentative descent from his fortress of books under the counter onto the main floor.
Rainer remained hidden the entire time I was there. “At one point he was so fat he couldn't clean himself really,” Jonas said, and another employee chimed in from the background: “He still doesn't really clean himself.” The amputation of one of his legs may have saved Rainer from cancer, but it has come with difficult repercussions. “Most cats can take care of themselves, but he needs to be taken care of,” explained Jonas.
Lucky for Rainer, it is clear that he is well loved by both the store's staff and its customers. And though Rainer may be a little shy and depressed, he still loves attention, purring loudly when people show him affection — something they inevitably do whenever Rainer chooses to make an appearance.