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Rachel Belle

Shop Cats: Meet the Kitties Who Help Purrsonalize Local Stores

Presta and Schrader, named after bicycle inner tubes, live at Aaron's Bicycle Repair in White Center.
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White Center's Roxbury Complete Auto Supply is known for two things, it's friendly service and Swifty, the big white and tan kitty who sleeps in a bed on the counter.

"She just appeared one day right here on the porch and so I started feeding her and she never left!" laughed co-owner Kathy Crawford.

That was 15 years ago and Kathy and Bill Crawford say she's become a beloved shop cat, popular with most customers.

"We've had kids that cry because they want to take her home and they can't," said Bill. "It's funny, they'll climb up and stand on the counter with her."

Swifty purrs like a motor when you pet her, she's believed to be about 17 years old and she's far more pampered than you'd ever imagine a cat in an auto part store to be.

"A customer, two days ago, brought her in a pack of little Temptation treats here. They bring her beds, everything. They hear about the cat, see her. So they're like, 'Oh God, our cat doesn't like this!' They'll bring it in. It's just funny!"

Around the corner from Roxbury Complete Auto Supply, another unsuspecting kitty lair: Aaron's Bicycle Repair.

"Presta, Schrader, come here!" owner Aaron Goss calls.

Presta is gray and white, his brother Schrader black and white.

"Presta and Schrader, they're bicycle inner tube types," explained Aaron. "We were just thinking of something bikey and then we just thought of the two types of valves."

Aaron adopted the cats to solve a practical problem.

"We had a mouse problem about three shops ago so we got the cats and now we have a cat problem. We moved, so we have no more mice. They're just pets now. They live here all the time."

The sweet, cuddly cats can be seen perched on a bike seat, snuggled into an inner tube or, if there are costumers present:

"If you sit down, anywhere, the cat will come sit in your lap and then he won't let you leave. Presta, if you pet him once, and then you're talking or doing something else, he'll come up and he'll put his hand on your leg and say, 'Hey hey, keep petting me! Greg!" he calls to store manager Greg Sundin, "What else do these cats do that's really cute?"

"Cute cat stories...hmmm..." Greg thinks. "They make some interesting contributions to our carpeting. Always a fascinating sculpture or two there for you."

At Capitol Hill's Twice Sold Tales books store, a huge, orange, fluffy tailed kitty walks back and forth across the counter while Sheila Woodcock pays.

"This is the most wonderful cat and every time I come to Twice Sold Tales, I would rather have the cat to take home than books," Sheila mused. "But the owner won't let me."

Jaime Lutton has owned the book store for 27 years and there has almost always been cats living inside of it.

"Since 1990, the first day I opened somebody brought me a cat. It was a cat that was being booted from a real estate agent's office, that lived there, and they needed a home for it. I've had probably 20 cats since then. They come in, they leave. Sometimes they are adopted out, sometimes they stay."

Right now there are only two kitties on the premises.

"That's Schmoo, because he schmoozes people. Eleanor was named after Eleanor of Aquitaine. Here she comes here!"

Like Aaron's kitties, these cats were originally hired to do a job.

"This neighborhood, because there are restaurants, attracts mice and sometimes even rats. They smell the cats and don't come in. Or if they come in, she kills them. Shops often have cats and they don't say why, but it's to keep rodents out."

But, of course, they're deeply loved and the reason many people come in to the shop.

"Some apartments around here you can't have a cat, they come in and get their cat fix. The Japanese foreign exchange students, who are really lovely kids, they come and they play with the cats and they take pictures. It's nice for the kids who are away from home."

In a world of big box stores and chains, there's nothing cozier than a mom and pop store with a kitty purring up on the counter.

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