STAUNTON, Va. (AP) — Two big blue eyes greeted Rachel Brown four years ago. They were peering out under a boxcar behind Brown’s quilt shop near the railroad tracks.
Brown decided to bring her in, but of course it took a few weeks to tame her feral ways.
Brown, who owns Rachel’s Quilt Patch in Staunton, decided to make the new kitten a part of the store. She named her Sweet Blue for her piercing blue eyes and let her live in the store.
“There’s a cat living here because she showed up under the boxcar, a tiny kitten. All we saw were these beguiling blue eyes,” she said. “She was feral, but we invited her in and tamed her very carefully. We love the cat and our customers love our cat.”
Brown said they previously had another cat, named Patches, living in the store for 14 years.
“We were known for our cat,” Brown said.
After Patches died, Brown said they didn’t see the need for another cat. That’s when Sweet Blue came on the scene.
“We have a lot of customers come to just visit the cat,” Brown said. “I’m not sure if it’s important to have a cat here, but it does have it’s benefits. People relax. A friendly cat I think makes an impression on people, especially cat lovers. This cat will greet, meet, sit on laps and sit on anything we’re working on. A lot of people love the fact that we have a cat here. We enjoy having her.
“She’s good company. I just enjoy having her around,” Brown added. “I have one cat at home and one cat in the shop. They’re kind of independent, but they also like to be where you are, at least this cat does. She comes and spends time wherever you are in the store.”
She lives in the store 24/7. Brown makes sure when she leaves for the weekend or days off, that the cat has enough food and water.
“She guards the shop when we’re gone,” Brown said. “She’s very independent. On Tuesday mornings she’ll be waiting in the window and come greet us at the door. I think she misses us, but I don’t think she’s lonely. She goes to the window for entertainment.”
Sweet Blue has become the mascot for the store. Customers sometimes just come in to visit her.
“The blue eyes just draw people in. She was feral, so I’m not sure what breed she is, but she does have some Siamese in her and she’s very soft and very friendly,” Brown said. “The blend of whatever she has with Siamese is very intriguing to people. She’s a gentle reminder, she puts people at ease. I think when people see the cat, they come in and greet and meet the cat, it’s a draw and people relax.”
When Brown leaves for the day or closes up the shop, Sweet Blue usually finds a place to hunker down. Her go-to spot while people aren’t in the shop is the window. If she isn’t in the window, many customers tap on the window to draw Sweet Blue’s attention.
“They’ll tap on the window to see if she’ll come, when the shop is closed,” Brown said. “I’ll be here working after hours and I’ll hear this tapping on the window. They’re either playing with the cat that’s already in the window or wanting her to come to the window, and sometimes she will. She’ll hear the window tapping and head over to the window to check it out.”
Sheri Salatin is a frequent customer. She said Sweet Blue has been her ever since she started coming into the shop.
“She always wants to be right where you are with whatever you are doing,” Salatin said. “If you’re laying fabric out on the counter, she wants to see it. We always say that she has to approve it before you can buy it. I can’t picture her not being here because I’ve never been to the shop without her here.”
Sweet Blue has some personality to her, but one characteristic is she’s incredibly patient. Brown reminisced about a memory of Sweet Blue and her now 7-year-old granddaughter Emma Rose Shirey and a baby buggy.
“I think one of the funniest thing that’s she’s one of the few cats I know that allowed herself to be rolled around, without jumping out, in a child’s baby buggy,” she said. “Emma played with this cat since she was three.”