Cleo Le-Tan does not own pets. Not in the shop he recently opened. Not in the home she shares with her husband, Alex Detrick, and their two children, ages 2 and 6.
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate pets or all animals for that matter. She certainly does – enough to set up a bookstore dedicated to them.
On September 15, Ms. Le-Tan opened the doors to “the first animal-focused bookstore in New York,” Pillow-Cat Books, on East 9th Street in Manhattan’s East Village.
“All my favorite characters are animals,” she said of why she settled on the topic, a Little Golden Book about Little Peeee, a circus dog growing up in France, her favorite. “I have all these technical books on poodle grooming and it just makes me want a poodle,” she said. (“Our family always had pets, and now I look forward to my kids being old enough to pick one up,” she said.)
Customers’ canine companions are greeted with jars of treats at the store’s entrance, and the fictional variety of animals is ubiquitous in the otherwise 200-square-foot shop.
“Pillow-cat is a cat shaped like a cat or a pillow the size of a cat,” said Ms. Le-Tan, 36, of the mascot. She previously wrote “A Booklover’s Guide to New York” and published in France a Roman clef called “une family”.
“I’ve always been surrounded by books, and I’ve written an entire book about bookstores,” she said. “I thought it would be great to have my own.”
And the green color of the grass on the walls and shelves of the shop is a tribute to the famous green The walls in his father’s Paris living room, The late painter and regular New Yorker cover artist Pierre Le-Tano. Ms. Lay-Tan is still deciding whether the shade works. “Everybody hates hare,” she said.
Ms. Le-Tan moved from France to New York City 10 years ago, and said her goal is to make Pillow-Cat “like an old French shop, where you can find something that’s been on the shelf for 59 years.”
“But I also had to have some neon and modern stuff for New York,” she said.
Until now, Ms. Lay-Tan has been asking visitors questions about what, exactly, an animal-themed bookstore is. “People say, ‘Oh, is this a children’s bookstore?’ And I say, ‘No, it’s just animals,'” she said. In fact, while “Hello Kitty” and “Baber” have their spots on the shelves, so does a photography book of adulterous animals.
The store’s only guiding principle is that “an animal or animal character must be present” somewhere in the books for sale. Otherwise, the mix is loose and happily open to interpretation; Heavy but not exclusively on old books.
Sweet Mother Goose stories coexist with “The Thorn Birds” (featuring sheep, a mythical bird and a wild boar); “The Leopard” (“We were leopards, lions; those who would replace us would be little jackals, hyenas; and so many of us, leopards, jackals and sheep, we would all think ourselves the salt of the earth”) “The wind in the willow With (Mole, Rat, Toad, Badger); “Snoopy in Fashion” (Dog) with “Sinatra and His Rat Pack” (Uh, Rats?)
The shelves inside the Pillow-Cat are arranged by species (As is the store’s website) dogs get the most shelf space (five-and-a-half, to be exact), including “101 Dalmatians,” “Winery Dogs of Sonoma” and Mikel Bulgakov’s “Heart of a Dog,” the cover of which Ms. Le-Tan loves “Because the dog is worn out.”
There are also books on extinct and fictional animals (dinosaurs, dragons), horses, cats, bears, birds, rabbits, insects, rodents, farm animals, forest animals (“bambi”) and forest animals. Kangaroos, elephants, giraffes and a book titled “The Adventures of the Jewish Weasel” also line the walls.
Still, Ms. Lay-Tan feels she has a gap to fill. “There might just be a seahorse book,” said Ms. Le-Tan with some concern. “I had no idea what a manatee was, and then came this little girl who wanted flamingo books. I’m feeling stressed now that I might be missing animals.”