Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
The kitty is anxious but comfy. He sits.
The kitty is anxious but comfy. He sits.
Photo by Chloe Duncan
Culture > News

Saying Goodbye to the Sunshine Kitty Catfe

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

“I wanted to create a space where people can experience that same wonderful feeling that I get after every cat cafe visit I’ve ever had: utter and complete peace, relaxation, happiness, and sense of well-being,” Amanda Jones founder of The Sunshine Kitty Catfe writes on the cafe’s website. After being in St. Petersburg, Florida for three years, the city’s first “Cat Cafe” closed on Nov. 5, 2023, and will not be relocating. The Sunshine Kitty Catfe opened in 2019 and has developed a dedicated following of regulars at the Catfe.  

If you’re a frequent Her Campus at USFSP follower, then you may have read our previous article, “Sunshine Kitty Catfe: The Cat-Lover’s Promised Land” from earlier this year. That article, written by fellow member Chloe Duncan, was how I was first introduced to the cafe. I kept putting off visiting as I figured I could always check it out when I had more free time, but now that they’re closed, I no longer can.  

The news first broke of the closure earlier this year in an article by St. Pete Rising, where they reported that “Craig Bazarsky of BendinRoad Development LLC and Christopher Bicho of Landings Real Estates Group [were] under contract to purchase” the building that housed Sunshine Kitty to turn it into an apartment building.  

“The entire landscape of downtown St Pete has changed dramatically over the last few years and I knew it was only a matter of time until my small business would be directly impacted,” Jones had told St. Pete Rising back in May. “Fortunately, the current property owners and developers of the proposed project have been very considerate of me and Sunshine Kitty … We were able to reach an amicable agreement that will allow the Catfe to operate business as usual until the end of this year.”  

Yet in the past year, the Catfe isn’t the only small business that’s had to close due to condo and apartment construction. Dr. BBQ, a barbecue restaurant in the EDGE District of St. Pete, closed in Dec. 2022. The Dr. BBQ himself, Ray Lampe, reality TV personality, spoke about his restaurant’s closure to FOX 13 saying, “[Dr. BBQ] became so valuable that [Roger Perry] couldn’t say no. The developer wanted that parcel and he was going to get it.” 

Lampe’s business partners were Suzanne and Roger Perry, who own the local chain of Datz restaurants. Suzanne spoke about the transaction to the Tampa Bay Times, where she described similar problems to what Jones mentioned about the changing landscapes of St. Petersburg, and how it became difficult to continue the restaurant.  

“It was very simple: Someone called us and said they really want that real estate in the world’s worst way… This was simply a real estate transaction. In that corridor of development, in this particular day and time and economy — it was the right business decision to make. It was the only decision to make, to be honest.” 

St. Petersburg has begun to grow, for better and for worse. While there has been increased demand for luxury housing, it has definitely played a part in the closure of these restaurants and other small businesses. Many that aren’t facing the sale of their buildings are still struggling. The Tampa Bay Times released an analysis on the topic of how small businesses are struggling in St. Petersburg this past summer, even more so than usual. 

In the article, they discuss how post-pandemic many small businesses were flourishing, as many consumers sought out local stores to specifically help them. But recently that drive has slowed down. “The National Retail Federation predicted that 2023 would bring 4% to 6% growth in retail sales. Multiple owners said the early part of the year was just fine, but that they’ve slowed down more than normal in the last two months.” 

This past summer was an extremely difficult time for many small businesses in the Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg area, according to the Times. Celine Beltgens, the owner of vegan bakeries in St. Pete, Valkyrie Donuts, and Valhalla Bakery, stated that she had to close her third location, Freya’s 

Beltgens told the Times that Freya’s was struggling prior to this summer, but when Valkyrie and Valhalla both began to decrease in sales, it became a choice of closing Freya’s or paying off her COVID-19 relief loans. “No one told us that instead of this boom after the pandemic ended, we would end up with a recession,” she remarked.  

While the status of the economy is always fluctuating, it’s hard to say what this will mean for small businesses in the long term. It’s hard seeing fan-favorite places, like Sunshine Kitty Catfe, close, but hopefully, the future market will allow space for up-and-coming businesses to stay afloat. Supporting small businesses is extremely important, as many don’t have the ability to compete, in terms of prices, with corporations. As college students, it may seem like our impact on the economy isn’t significant, but supporting local small businesses helps them to survive and to keep towns and cities, like downtown St. Petersburg, unique. 

Riley is writer at Her Campus: USFSP. She focuses on writing about music, movies, books, and culture. She is a senior at the University of South Florida: St. Petersburg studying Digital Communications and Multimedia Journalism, with a minor in English Literary Studies. She hopes to work in magazine editing or book publishing in the future. Outside of Her Campus, Riley uses Letterboxd and Goodreads more than any other social media site. Her favorite movies are Knives Out, Chungking Express, and Before Sunset. Her favorite books are The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Secret History.