Anytime a famous person dies, Tom Hamrick has made it a habit of breaking out his sketchbook. Leaf through its pages, and you’ll be met with a tour of “Rest In Peace” drawings. There’s Fred Willard, Toots Hibbert — and a striped little cat with a bow tie knotted around his neck and a slightly grumpy look on his fuzzy face.
The kitty isn’t out of place in Hamrick’s hall of fame. Even after his untimely death over the summer, he remains a celebrity of sorts in the corner of Baltimore he called home: the Canton Ace Hardware Store. During his short life, he rapidly accumulated an immensely loyal fan base, racking up nearly 2,000 followers on his Facebook Page, “Stanley, the Canton Ace Cat.”
“He was just a cat in a hardware store, but he was more than a cat in a hardware store, if that makes sense,” explained Hamrick, who has lived about five blocks from the store for over 20 years.
And as of this week, the shop has a more permanent memorial for its ever vigilant rodent exterminator: A sort of shrine set up by the front of the store, complete with a tag from Stanley’s collar, his pawprint encased in plaster and a small wooden box holding his ashes.
A Reddit post about the display earlier this week brought up old emotions for those in the community who knew and loved him. Months after the kitty’s death in June, Mark Dutton, the store’s manager, said he still misses him to pieces. And customers are still telling Dutton how much they miss him, too, he said.
The Canton shop’s owners have Ace Hardware locations all across Baltimore and the Washington, D.C., region, Dutton said, and the Baltimore shops always had a designated store cat. The Waverly Ace shop has Benjamin and the Federal Hill stop has Decker — both adopted, just like Stanley, from Baltimore’s Animal Allies Rescue Foundation. Dutton couldn’t remember what year exactly Stanley came to the Canton store, flipping open the cat’s file to jog his memory.
Because, of course, Stanley has a file.
“I always regard Stanley as an employee,” Dutton said. “And he was good, I mean, in the entire time he was here, I never saw a mouse.”
At the end of the day, Stanley wouldn’t go home with any of the employees, Dutton said — the Canton shop was his home. He’d make his bed anywhere he pleased, curling up high on the store’s shelves or draping over cash registers. His favorite spot, though, was squeezed into a cardboard Ace box near the front of the shop, where he’d lounge and “greet his public,” Dutton said.
Dutton and Hamrick both remember the time Stanley slipped out of the store. Dutton put out a call for help on Facebook, which quickly racked up thousands of views. In the comment section of a post about the kitty’s death, one woman recalled that she was so distraught about his escape earlier that she made her husband walk around with her after a night shift, calling for him.
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