While the president of the United States might see Baltimore as infested with rats, the furry truth lurks in alleys, homes, shops and Instagram accounts across the region: Charm City loves cats, the rodents’ rhyme-named nemeses.
Our last article about cats in local shops generated a far greater response than we could have imagined. Many readers emailed touching reflections on the cats that frequented their own homes, neighborhoods and offices. Just as importantly, quite a few reached out to point out more that we did not include. Their enthusiasm for animals who alternately love some of us, while plotting humankind’s demise and collective annoyance, made a case for another list of local feline fixtures.
Meet eight more cats “working” at greater Baltimore’s breweries, hardware stores and even birdfeed shops.
Home: Mobtown Brewing Company, 4015 Foster Ave., Suite 400, Baltimore
Backstory: Ernie, like his aptly named littermate and fellow black-and-white cat Bert, moved into the Highlandtown craft brewery around the time it opened in April. Before then, they stayed with co-owner and head brewer Dave Carpenter, who inherited them from his parents after they died.
“They were at my house, but we had three other cats at my house and it got a little chaotic,” Carpenter said. “So when we opened the brewery, I was like, ‘They’re coming with me!’”
Carpenter noted that he sometimes catches the pair curled up together, taking a catnap or fighting over the best spots to sleep.
“Bert will find a spot and he’ll sleep in it for maybe a few days...and then Ernie will go and see that Bert’s sleeping there, so then, when Bert’s not there, Ernie will take it," he said. “They’ve actually swatted [at each other] over them, too, it’s pretty funny.”
The brothers also get vocal when they’re hungry and stalk Carpenter during the morning and early afternoon until he feeds them.
Ernie is the more visible half (see “Purrsonality” below) of the duo, and his public appearances even prompted a small note on cans of Mobtown’s 41-Year Lapse pale ale.
Purrsonality: While his brother prefers to spend his time asleep or out of reach in the back of the brewery, Ernie embraces the role of host—at least, as long as it benefits him.
“He’s a little timid around big crowds, but if there’s a smaller amount of people—like early in the day, right after we open, there’s maybe less than 10 people here—he’ll literally jump into people’s laps [if they’re] sitting at the bar,” Carpenter said, laughing. “He picks out the one that probably don’t like cats as much, I’m sure.”
Home: Schneider Paint and Hardware, 700 Wyndhurst Ave., Suite A, Baltimore
Backstory: Legacy matters at Schneider Paint and Hardware. Proprietor Jeffrey Pratt said that his great-grandfather started a grocery store at Schneider’s Roland Park location in 1896. It pivoted to selling hardware during World War II. It was Pratt’s father who first introduced cats to the store, and Meow continues the role cats play in many hardware stores: catching pests.
“The main objective [for my father] was for control of mice, particularly,” Pratt said. “When I did get [Meow], I did not know we had mice until she started bringing me ‘presents!’ She’s doing a great job, because that happened for the first month, month-and-a-half, and I haven’t seen a sign of them anywhere.”
Meow joined Schneider’s staff in February, after her previous owner, a nearby friend of Pratt’s, succumbed to cancer last November.
“While he was in in-home hospice, my wife and I would visit at the house, and his kids said, ‘Meow really has a liking towards you...do you want her?’” Pratt said, adding that Meow takes on certain behaviors—sleeping in a small cubby hole, meowing when someone says her name—that she did back home.
Purrsonality: Pratt described the tabby as “very social." She encourages customers to pet her and uses different meows to “talk” to people, depending on her objective. She even sometimes heads back to his wife Pat’s adjacent store, The Carriage House of Schneider’s, prompted only by Mrs. Pratt’s voice.
“I’ve noticed she has a different meow sound when she’s hungry,” Pratt observed. Customers should definitely shower her with attention, although those with dogs should be careful: “[The previous owner] had three chihuahua’s that tortured her, and she thinks all dogs are terrible.”
Backstory: Lulu, along with another cat named Czak, spends her days at Saratoga Trunk in Fells Point home. Vicki McComas, who owns and lives just above the antiques shop, said that she found both cats through the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS). While both cats like people, Lulu embraces the thrill of public engagement more often than her housemate.
“If the weather’s good, I will leave the door ajar, and she sits on the front step,” McComas said. “Anybody that walks by, she goes up to them, has a ‘chat,' and when they try to pet her, she comes back to the store and they follow her in. She’s a shill!”
McComas, who’s kept cats in the store since opening it nearly twenty years ago, also works as sculptor. She estimated that about half of the clay works she stores in a room that adjoins Saratoga Trunk depict her cats, including Lulu.
Purrsonality: Lulu’s main job of enticing customers points to her comfort around people.
“Lulu’s the kind of cat that if someone starts petting her, and she really likes them, she rolls on her back and lets them scratch her tummy, and that’s very unusual in a cat,” McComas said. “We’re not sure she’s a cat, let’s put it that way."
Backstory: Anybody who drinks dark beer will understand why the resident cat at this acclaimed Baltimore county farm brewery took the name of the iconic British beer. Like a buzz from a dark beer that exceeds 8% alcohol by volume, the feline friend just showed up about three months ago.
“It was almost like he came here for a reason," co-owner Sandy Frank said. “He walked around the brewery like he’d been there forever.”
While cats can help breweries of all kinds eliminate and ward off pests, Inverness ’ rural setting on Frank’s northern Baltimore county farm offers more room to roam and vermin to attack. This makes Stout, a stray outdoors cat-turned-brewery resident, especially unique.
“We have traps out all of the time, and my husband said, ‘You know, we’re not catching any mice,’" Frank said. “I think he makes a huge difference, that’s for sure.”
Purrsonality: Stout bucks the stereotypes surrounding black cats in a number of ways, including by being, in Frank’s words, “super friendly.”
“Usually, on farms, you’ll have cats...they just run around and nobody ever knows who they are,” she said. “But this cat has gotten to be so personable that people are always talking about the cat, and he’s become part of the family now.”
Backstory: As weird as it sounds to keep a cat in a store with the word “birds” in its name, proprietor Wendy Baker has an easy explanation.
“We don’t sell birds, we sell backyard bird-feeding supplies,” Baker said. “A lot of birdseed, bird food, then bird feeders, birdhouses, bird baths, a lot of nature stuff. So she’s really the only animal in the store.”
Marley did her job so well that she now holds a vice president position, focusing on pest control management, with the business.
Purrsonality: Although she is friendly to customers and largely indifferent to their dogs, Marley does not like to go outside. Baker said that this quality is important to any cat whose bird-loving owners prefer the backyard stay corpse-free.
“I’m so glad she’s an indoor cat,” she said. “Cats kill a lot of songbirds, and we always tell people to please keep your cats indoors."
Home: Federal Hill Ace Hardware, 1214 Light St., Baltimore
Backstory: Decker, like Stanley at the Canton Ace Hardware location and Ben at the Waverly outpost (more on him later), is named after a ubiquitous home improvement and construction materials company. He joined the Ace family in November 2010, after manager Dave Evans adopted him.
“He was actually on his way, almost, to be euthanized,” Evans said. “And I said, ‘Fine, fine. You know what, we’ll give it a shot. bring him in, let him walk around and see what happens.’ So they bring him in, and I just put the cage down, and he just casually took one paw out, looked around, took another paw out, looked around, kind of got out of the cage, walked down an aisle and parked his butt, and that was it. He just fit in immediately.”
Decker, Stanley and Ben serve as their respective stores’ informal brand ambassadors. Decker boasts over a thousand followers on his own Facebook page and appears on specialty socks that the Federal Hill store sells.
Purrsonality: Decker’s digital popularity partly stems from his easygoing and amiable demeanor. Evans said that he is comfortable with various kinds of customers, from children to adults.
“People actually come just to see Decker,” he said.
Home: Waverly Ace Hardware, 601 E. Homestead St., Baltimore
Backstory: Named after Benjamin Moore paints, this cat rounds out the triumvirate of Ace Hardware mascots with understated elegance. Store manager Patrick Berberich said that he came to Waverly from BARCS roughly a decade ago.
“Our main concern was rodent control," Berberich explained. “There’s mice everywhere in the city, and we are not immune...They’ll eat any kind of seed, so oftentimes Ben will be found just sort of staring at the birdseed for hours.”
Backstory: Simcoe, who shares a name with a popular variety of hops, came from the same litter as fellow brewery tabby Hellrazer and two others who have since been adopted.
“We got them to help keep mice away, which is a pretty standard thing for breweries,” said DuClaw marketing director Madeline Caldwell. “We’ve found that they help with employee morale...it’s just nice to have [their] presence at the brewery.”
The cats, now close to three years old, frequently appear in regional bars, via the tap handles for various DuClaw beers, and other branded items. DuClaw currently does not have a public taproom, which means that unless you can get on one of the limited private tours, you’ll have to follow Simcoe’s adventures on the cats’ Instagram. In addition, anybody interested in Simcoe can reach out to DuClaw to learn about possible adoption options, Caldwell said.