Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
A spirit that is not afraid

The Coffee Cat's impact on the Auburn community

<p>Coffee Cat storefront.</p>

Coffee Cat storefront.

Sunday, Mar. 31 will be The Coffee Cat’s final day open for business in Auburn. A beloved coffee shop located on 124 Tichenor Ave. has brought many people together for almost 10 years, from laughing to studying.

There will be a farewell party at The Coffee Cat on Friday, Mar. 29 at 5 p.m. with live music from the bands Bedhead, Weary Pursuit, Molly Mac and more. The staff, including owner Maddie Corbeau, will share some final words and farewells, and there will be free refreshments as everyone celebrates The Coffee Cat.

“I feel a lot of things…The reality is that since Covid, it has been a lot more difficult on the backside of things. I have just done everything I could to keep it light and fun and wonderful for everyone else, but it’s been harder for me,” Corbeau said.

However, Corbeau believes that this time is an opportunity for other Auburn businesses to take advantage of the neat location as well as for her to pursue some other things she has had to previously dismiss upon running her business.

Corbeau does not have a business degree, but has become quite the entrepreneur. She originally went to school for interior design.

“For me it has always been more about the community, the atmosphere and the space. I think that if coffee is what Alex [on her staff] was meant to do, creating spaces for other people is what I was meant to do. It’s why I went into interior design,” Corbeau said.

She explained how her education in interior design did not turn out to be what she thought it would. However, this helped her find her calling and what she wanted to do by creating spaces in a more literal sense at The Coffee Cat.

“The technical design is important, but you can’t buy spirit with a chair, while a chair is good and lighting is important,” Corbeau said.

Corbeau opened The Coffee Cat to the public on Aug. 1, 2014.

“I opened this place as kind of a lifeline for myself during a point in my life where things were not going well. Watching it become the things that it has become for other people has been such a gift,” Corbeau said.

Corbeau explained how the current location of “Coffee Mafia” used to be “The Gnu’s Room,” a used bookstore owned by Tina Tatum. In the back,  was a tiny café area where Corbeau and her friend Sarah Barnett Gill began working.

After Tatum decided she no longer wanted the coffee part of the store anymore, she sold it to Corbeau and Gill, who became business partners for two years under the name “Mama Mocha’s,” where they eventually opened a second location on 124 Tichenor Ave.

Gill wanted to expand the business, but Corbeau was having a hard time in her personal life and was in the process of a divorce.

Long story short, the once-business partners amicably split, and each took a location to run. This, for Maddie Corbeau, became The Coffee Cat, which she legally opened three days after the birth of her son.

“So when I say I opened The Coffee Cat because I needed a safe space, it was very literally,” Corbeau said.

Naming her new business this title, however, was a challenging and back-and-forth process for Corbeau.

“I like cats ok,” Corbeau said.

She explained that she was clueless on what to name it for the longest time and how she kept stalling on making the decision, until her father eventually gave her a little push in the right direction.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Auburn Plainsman delivered to your inbox

“The only things that I could think about were vibes. I wanted it to be cool. I wanted it to be chill. I wanted people to read poetry. I wanted weirdo musicians to chain-smoke cigarettes out front,” Corbeau said.

After explaining this dream to her dad, he told her “You want to hang out with hip cats!” This statement got Corbeau thinking about the comedy of the duality of her location being connected to the business, The Hound.

“If I name it The Coffee Cat, it would be “CatDog,” which was one of my favorite shows when I was little,” Corbeau said.

Thus, The Coffee Cat, sharing a building with Auburn restaurant The Hound, became a reality.

There are several factors that make The Coffee Cat different than another typical coffee shop. One of these things is the business’s late-night weekend hours.

“It’s a cool story…The idea was brought to me last summer by a fellow called Haitham Eletrabi,” Corbeau said.

Corbeau explained how Eletrabi was an extreme night owl and would arrive at the coffee shop five minutes before closing because he worked late hours and had just woken up. Eletrabi asked Corbeau if he could conduct a poll on who would come if The Coffee Cat opened their space late into the night.

After receiving a positive response, Eletrabi insisted on Corbeau opening The Coffee Cat for late hours for a weekend, and he said he would pay the staff for a month to test it out.

Immediately, the trial run was profitable, and The Coffee Cat implemented staying open later until 1 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

“The community really wanted somewhere to go at 11 p.m. that was not a bar,” Corbeau said. 

There are so many other things that make The Coffee Cat unique. They have a kindness board that allows customers an occasional $2 off their drink. 

Additionally, a shelf to the right of the register holds handmade crochet trinkets that are sold by a local business owner. The local business owner then offers all of her proceeds to an orphanage in Mexico.

The Coffee Cat is also very dog-friendly. Customers at The Coffee Cat will spontaneously, and often ironically, bring their dogs inside the shop as they enjoy a cup of coffee and chat with their friends.

The Coffee Cat also used to get their caramel from the next door business, The Hound. As of a few months ago, The Coffee Cat now makes their own caramel in-house, however challengingly as Corbeau noted.

The Coffee Cat also sometimes puts wax paper down on top of the long dining table in the space where people study. Students, in between studying, take their pens to doodle, draw and write encouraging messages all over the paper covering their study space.

“I understand it’s a college town, so a coffee shop is always going to be somewhere for people to study, but I always wanted to offer an outlet for expression and relaxation – some way to shake your sillies out in-between having to study for exams,” Corbeau said.

All of these things are what make The Coffee Cat unique and special to both Corbeau and her customers.

At the beginning of Corbeau’s business when people would ask her why she wanted to open a coffee shop, she would always say, ‘I didn’t want to open a coffee shop – it was given to me from above.”

Corbeau believes that what she was able to build over the years through The Coffee Cat far exceeded any expectations she once had for the place.

“Coffee Cat has given me the time and the space to heal old wounds and to explore not just who I’ve been but who I can be. My favorite thing about it has been and will continue to be the perseverance that it represents,” Corbeau said.

There is no doubt that the Auburn community has been impacted and saddened by the news of the closing, as evidenced by the announcement made via social media on Mar. 19.

“Everything ends, and it’s fine. Nothing lasts forever…I just think it’s really important to make a concentrated effort to stay where you are in a moment because they don’t last,” Corbeau said.

Corbeau frequently talked about how The Coffee Cat practically fell into her lap one day amidst a hard point in her life. Now, it has come to an end, and the Auburn community will forever be grateful for the 10 years that it served them.

“If you think about it, Coffee Cat’s foundation as a creation is not that great. I built this thing on top of my sorrow, and it became something beautiful,” Corbeau said.

Share and discuss “The Coffee Cat's impact on the Auburn community” on social media.