Birds and beans
When The Perch (1515 S. Eighth St., perchpets.com) opened this past Saturday, owners Erik and Michele Wolf believed it to be the nation's first bird cafe, in the spirit of other international pet cafes, like cat cafes where folks pay to pet felines drink-side.
But The Perch's mission is different, and no fees are charged for entry. Rather, the shop operates in partnership with the Wolfs' Metro Denver Parrot Rescue nonprofit, which seeks adoptive homes for abandoned birds.
"People don't realize how many parrots are being given up to rescues," says Erik. "It's not as big as the dog and cat problem at shelters, but it's hundreds of birds annually." Since launching a couple years ago, MDPR has already placed upwards of 250 companion birds.
Fulfilling the cafe aspect, The Perch serves drip coffee from Spanish Peaks, hot chocolate and tea, plus sweets from the nearby Old School Bakery. "We aren't technically a food-service establishment," he says, "as we're only serving hot-brewed beverages and baked goods made elsewhere."
That answers the question about satisfying the health department, as instead, The Perch reports to agriculture authorities like any pet shop does — they also sell retail bird supplies. Guests can directly socialize with the birds, but erase any visions of birds flying wildly about, as they are caged near a seating area. However visitors (after signing a waiver) may interact with them in a play-stand area.
"We want people to feel free to come sit with the birds — it's a novelty for most folks who don't have parakeets or a parrot in their house," says Erik. "But the real mission is to find the birds homes. By serving food and drink, it makes it possible for someone to sit comfortably and spend a few hours with a bird if they're interested in adoption. We want people to hang out, and for this to become a community center."
Adoptions run as little as $10 for a parakeet up to $500 for a macaw (which sell as babies for upwards of $2,500, he says). But even a couple bucks spent on a cup of coffee supports the overall mission. The Perch acts as the for-profit arm in hopes of creating a sustainable future for the all-volunteer rescue, as all monies that go to it go into supplies, feed and veterinary care — The Wolfs receive no salary from MDPR.
They do however own The Perch's neighboring consignment store and real estate business. Michele is a former corporate operations director and Erik still operates a small marketing agency. She has been "fascinated with parrots since she was a little girl," he says, "and when you marry into that, well, you end up having parrots as pets." If you're socially conscious, you end up fostering a bunch of birds too.
"We were frightened there might come a point when we wouldn't be able to commit our house like this anymore," he says. "So we wanted to make this organization something that hopefully will serve the Front Range for a long time to come."