A Sanctuary Cafe Logo with botanical border

Things Are Coming Together!

July 12, 2023| Issue 7

View of the front window at 80 Charles Street
Front window display with books for Pride Month

Hello Friends,

We apologize (again!) for the long delay between newsletters. We’ve been busy having construction adventures (mostly good, see below) and can’t believe how much is happening and how much we’re learning. This past week included the first two trainings for our inventory and point-of-sale systems, working to understand the amazing capabilities of the split HVAC network being installed at 80 Charles Street (we are going to have the best air!), and researching new ways to sneak Kampbell antibiotics (don’t worry, he’s feeling great and we’re nearly done!).

While we can’t commit to an opening date just yet (and no, we aren’t hiring yet either), we are still on track for Fall 2023. We are finally approaching the finish line and we can’t believe it! We feel so lucky to be on this journey with such a wonderful team and are excited to show you some of the big changes that have happened in the space since the last newsletter.

When Water from the Charles River Reminds You 80 Charles Street is on Filled Land*

Close-up of helical pile going into the flooded lift foundation pit

Installing the lift foundation’s helical piles after heavy rains raised the Charles River water table enough for water to seep in. (Everything is beautifully sealed and dry now!)

Man balances on a wooden board above the flooded lift foundation pit while guiding a helical pile into the ground

As we’ve said in previous newsletters, having a lift is very important to us because it will allow everyone to access the bathroom and it will also give people with cat lounge reservations a stair-free way to access the cat lounge’s lower level. At the start of this renovation, we had no idea how complicated it would be to get the space ready for our ADA-compliant lift, including:

  • finding unclaimed space in the exact same spot on both floors to put the lift (not easy when every square inch already feels accounted for!)
  • digging the pit and uncovering old granite slabs, boulders and fragments of tiles and bricks**
  • drilling down 20+ feet to give the geotechnical engineer soil samples to analyze
  • installing helical piles, custom rebar and the first concrete pour, followed by custom steel supports and the second concrete pour
  • salvaging the gorgeous original ceiling beams and framing the lift shaft

* See Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston by Nancy S. Seasholes

**Additional photos of these many steps can also be found on our Instagram (@asanctuarycafe).

View of completed lift foundation and framing, taken from above

When Placing HVAC Ductwork Involves Many Ladders and a Difficult Air Shaft

We have been particularly excited about starting this component because the completely separate air systems will allow people with cat allergies to safely visit the cafe and bookstore (and they'll still be able to see the cats through the window walls)!

What we didn’t anticipate was just how tricky it would be to fit everything. This new, expanded HVAC system wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of creative thinking and the tremendous technical expertise of New England Cooling Towers, particularly when they were working in our building’s tight, crowded air shaft.

Ladder visible through a small narrow window
View of the air shaft
Man on a ladder at a construction site, measuring part of the ceiling

How many people does it take to confirm an HVAC split will fit? Contractor John Rogers of Sagamore Select looks on while architect Richard Pignataro (Pauli & Uribe) measures and architect Monika Pauli (Pauli & Uribe) also assists.

With the positioning of the HVAC ductwork confirmed, next steps include completing installation of the HVAC system (with another round in the air shaft!), lighting installation and plasterwork. And once the ceiling is plastered, we can REALLY get moving!

Nourishment of the Food and Book Varieties

Pastries and a latte next to a book

Do we call everything in the pastry case at French Press our favorite? Possibly. But the Guava Puff Pastry Danish and Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie are our EXTRA favorite, and we’re also in love with this Cafe Gourmand trio of Panna Cotta, Eclair and Almond Financier. (Because why have one amazing thing when you can have three amazing things? Unless the one amazing thing is a guava danish or chocolate hazelnut cookie…) Have we mentioned recently how excited we are to feature French Press pastries and desserts when we open?!

Currently Reading

Have you, like us, been looking for an excuse to read Disability Visibility? (Or have you never heard of it until now but you’re intrigued?) Now is the time because July is Disability Pride Month! We’re also enjoying some other incredible books:

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong

Image of the book Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong

Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby

Image of the book Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby

Hula by Jasmin ‘Iolani Hakes

Image of the book cover for Hula by Jasmin ‘Iolani Hakes

How to Read a Tree: Clues and Patterns from Bark to Leaves by

Tristan Gooley

Image of the book cover of How to Read a Tree
Visit Our Bookshop.org Storefront!
Kampbell the cat peeks through ferns

Kampbell Meets Ferns

(I.e., The Obligatory Kampbell Photo Essay)

In our experience, cats view the sniffing of all new objects in their territory as a mandatory exercise. However, there is a vast difference between the polite sniff a newly arrived package may receive versus the prolonged investigation of a new plant, which generally involves sticking their noses deep into the plant’s leaves and soil.

We have always wanted the cat lounge at A Sanctuary Cafe to include plant enrichment but have also had our concerns: how do we make sure we’re avoiding the many popular plants that are toxic to cats? (The ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants is the most comprehensive we’ve found.) Also, cat’s digestive systems are not designed for any plants (unlike dogs, they are pure carnivores), so which plants are they less likely to nibble, hurting the plants and their stomachs? Since most true ferns are non-toxic to cats and can also live happily indoors, we’ve started our experiments with them. The early results: some fluttery fern fronds are just too tempting, but mostly there has been enjoyment without sampling. See the photos below for our (kind of scientific?) testing process.

Step One: First Meeting

Kampbell thoroughly sniffs the fern fronds and their soil, with occasional breaks to watch the birds outside.

Kampbell smells a fern
Kampbell sits next to a fern while looking out the window

Step Two: Add Playtime

Enter the green coil toy, which is no match for Kampbell’s stealthy approach from above. The ferns appear to be appreciated for the additional crouching, ducking and weaving opportunities they provide (and without them being turned into toys themselves!).

A green coil toy behind a fern plant
Kampbell looks at the green coil toy from the top of a chair
Kampbell reaches for the green coil toy
Kampbell peeks from behind the fern with the toy in his mouth

No cats were harmed or inconvenienced in the taking of these photos (though one fern was nibbled), with window gazing and play breaks enthusiastically supported. After its initial capture, Kampbell’s decision to drop the green coil at the human’s feet for repeated additional tosses into the ferns suggests that Kampbell had a positive experience.

Newsletter Archives

Behind-the-scenes look of window display components and miscellaneous construction materials

In Our Next Newsletter

  • An Opening Timeline (Finally!)
  • More Construction Photos
  • & A New Cat?

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A Sanctuary Cafe logo with book, cat and coffee pot