Cats and books: A purrr-fectly charming engagement

Enola bookstore is a treasure trove of books – and resident cats and ones that can be adopted

Smiling woman with long red hair

By Amanda E. Kelly

Special to The Knightly News

Central Penn students and other people across the Harrisburg area looking for some adventure can find a long-standing community asset at the end of their yellow brick road – a 6,500-square-foot bookstore full of mystery, wonder and fluffy adoptable cats, and a rainbow of book spines on the side.

“Our (rainbow book) mural was inspired by pictures of the Kansas City Public Library,” Jason Haring, who owns the bookstore with his wife, Michele, said. “We spent five years, 2015 to 2020, painting most of the mural. We still add a few books each year.”

Haring was referring to the brightly painted book spines people can see from Route 11/15, where Cupboard Maker Books is, at 157 N. Enola Road, in Enola. Dozens of popular names, such as Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”; “Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown; and “Frankenstein,” by Mary Shelley, were painted onto the building by local artist Kristian Beverly.

“I’m the understudy who paints the blank spines,” Haring said. “(Beverly) is the artist who turns them into the beautiful books people see when they drive by.”

Close-up of book spines on bookstore mural on Enola Road, in Enola, Pennsylvania
Cupboard Maker Books makes a pleasant splash on Enola Road, in Enola. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi

Cupboard Maker Books has been a popular getaway for people looking to lose themselves in rows of literature. Haring, whom locals affectionately know as “the Cat Wrangler,” says The Cupboard Maker originally opened in 1998 as a furniture and gift store with one shelf of books.

According to its website, in 2002 the store, donning the name change, moved into its second location, and eventually landed its forever home in Enola in 2003.

In spring 2015, the dynamic Haring book duo decided they wanted to paint their building, and after turning to their faithful Facebook following, fans suggested they paint a mural like the rows of books inside their store. Now, they’re known for the look. For people standing outside and, admiring the mural, there’s no denying that Cupboard Maker Books is most likely full of wonder and excitement.

This wasn’t the first brilliant idea the Harings had, though.

Large fluffy cat on a shelf, left upper foreground and a woman in right midground, with long blond hair and wearing a red sweatshirt, at a desk among bookshelves
Cupboard Maker Books Events Coordinator Olivia Kepler in the store with Annika, queen of the realm. Annika is one of many cats in store, and one of five of the store’s permanent feline residents. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi

Reflecting on a pivotal moment he had with his wife, Haring joked, “We had a conversation in 2011 that started like this: ‘I think we should get cats.’”

Known to locals for more than its famous outdoor painting, Cupboard Maker Books has been partnered with a local nonprofit, Castaway Critters, for over 10 years. This has allowed the store to become a local staple for people looking to add feline friends to their home, while allowing the bookstore to deal with a few pesky problems of its own.

“Our bookstore cats are working cats,” Haring said. “Before we brought cats into the mix, we used to catch mice like crazy. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of a mouse in over a decade, although on occasion, someone gets offended at our having cats in a bookstore.”

When asked how they deal with upset customers, Haring said, “I usually say, ‘In a big old building like this, you either have books and mice or books and cats. We choose cats.’ For every person who has a problem with in-store felines, we’ll make dozens of visitors happy.”

Making customers happy isn’t the only thing this business model does. Among their over 120,000 paperback and hardback books, the Harings’ visitors are entertained not only by witty messages such as “Beware: Falling Cats” but are also blessed by the presence of gorgeous, adoptable felines.

Woman with long blond hair and wearing a red sweatshirt in a well stocked bookstore, and standing beside a mid-sized cat habitat with a sign on a roof side that says "Property of Mouse and Odin," two of the cats who live permanently in the Cupboard Maker Books store in Enola, Pennsylvania.
Kepler next to a cat habitat play area. Mouse and Odin are two of the five permanent cat residents of Cupboard Maker Books. The store, which contains more than 120,000 books, hosts book clubs and authors signing their books. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi

Since partnering with Castaway Critters, the bookstore has helped over 240 felines find their forever homes, averaging 19 adoptions a year.

Books and cats: a wonderful combination – a much better combination than books and mice.

Social media followers agree.

Haring says: “I have posted cat pictures or videos on at least one of our social media platforms every morning for the past 13 years. The bookstore cats and fosters make our lives better, and we make their lives better as well.”

While showcasing their adoptable pals on social media has been a valuable aid in changing the lives of many cats and kittens, it is worth noting that not every cat in the bookstore is up for adoption.

According to the store’s website, five loveable and fluffy cats call the store their forever home. Odin, Mouse, Zak and Squeekie can be found welcoming everyone who walks through the door, whether it be a foster cat or book lover, and while these four friendly felines are content with lounging among rows of romance, suspense, horror and comedy, one cat isn’t so keen on staying inside.

Pink Fiat with large cat face image -- brown or black face and ears and light-brown long fur surrounding the face
Queen Annika cat’s royal “chariot.” Annika likes to get out to mingle among her fans and fans of Cupboard Maker Books. The car gets her to these engagements. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi

“This week, Queen Annika visited Patches Family Creamery in Lebanon,” the store’s Facebook page recently informed the public.

Proudly displaying her freshly blown hairdo around her tiny, harnessed body, the store’s fifth perma-cat, Annika, can be found inspecting a bowl of vanilla ice cream, playing on the playground and checking out ducks from a distance.

How, exactly, did Queen Annika get to Lebanon?

In her personalized bookstore car, of course!

The bright pink Fiat, complete with a large photo of the bookstore queen, can be found wandering all over Central PA on dozens of adventures. And while the Harings keep Annika’s loyal fanbase updated on her exciting happenings, locals can keep a lookout for the car, and its royal passenger, along the region’s streets and roads.

Next time you see the royal chariot zooming along our streets, choose your own adventure at the store, like one of your favorite childhood books. You won’t be disappointed once you arrive at your destination. After all, how could you go wrong with books and cats?

Corporate communications student Amanda Kelly is a student in Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi’s feature-writing class this term.

Comment or story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.

Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.