Wichita cafe’s greeter works for sausage and sleeping quarters
A near-downtown Wichita restaurant employs a greeter who is unusually popular with its customer base — and who is becoming Facebook famous.
She works for nothing, except maybe a little scrap of sausage here and there.
She’s friendly — and mostly reliable. Sometimes, she goes missing for days at time, worrying her employers. Sometimes, they have to bail her out.
She’s so popular, though, that the owners of the restaurant let her live there rent-free. But her sleeping quarters are outside. She’s not allowed to come in.
Her name is M.J., and she’s a feline fixture at Beautiful Day Cafe, the restaurant that Charolett Knapic opened in May 2015 at 2515 E. Central.
As soon as construction started at the building, M.J. — a kitty with no tail but lots of personality — started hanging out on site every day. When the cafe opened, she was still there. She’d purr at customers as they walked in. Occasionally, she’d try to sneak in with them.
After a while, Knapic learned that M.J. was a part-time resident of a house across the alley from the cafe. She was a stray the neighbors adopted, though she refused to stay indoors. The neighbors chipped her and named her Max Jr. because she reminded them of a cat they once had — a tailless manx named Max. When they realized Max Jr. was actually a girl, they decided to call her M.J. instead.
Customers grew to love M.J., and so did Knapic. For the past three years, she’s frequently posted her picture on Facebook and offers customers updates on M.J.’s attempts to get inside.
“She likes to hang out at the front door, and if she hears somebody drive up early, she comes right over,” Knapic said. “She’s really quiet. She just comes up near you and looks at you and wants to be petted.”
Twice over the years, M.J. has suddenly disappeared. Both times, including for a scary three-week span in October, Knapic and her customers were heartsick. But both times, M.J. was found safe and sound at the pound, likely taken there by someone who assumed she was homeless. The first time, M.J.’s owner paid $50 to bail her out. In October, her bail increased to $85 (second offense) and Knapic paid to spring her.
But M.J. is not homeless, despite choosing not to spend much time in her actual home. This fall, Knapic assigned a project to a group of students from the Northfield School of the Liberal Arts, who volunteer to work in
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Imagine a world where anytime you saw a restaurant headline from
Dining with Denise on social media, you could click on it and it would take you right to the story — every time.
Wouldn’t that be delicious?
The Eagle is running a sale that lasts until Dec. 14 for new or returning subscribers, who for a little while longer can get a digital-only subscription for $7.99 a month. (That’s 40 percent off the regular price.) Plus, the first month is only 99 cents.
It’s an all-access pass, too, so that means you can also see all of Matt Riedl’s her restaurant’s adjacent garden now and then.
She asked them to build a little house for M.J. that could sit just in front of the cafe, and one day, they did. It’s a little wooden hut with a kitty-sized door, and it has an “open” sign posted on it. At first, M.J. wasn’t too interested in going in. Now, she hangs out inside all the time. Knapic has even purchased a heated mat she plans to put inside that will make cafe life even cozier for her No. 1 employee.
Beautiful Day Cafe diners have come to count on seeing the restaurant’s little greeter when they visit. Many of them sneak little bites from their plates to feed her on the way out. Knapic knows because she’ll often find tiny pieces of sausage or egg M.J. has rejected littering the front walk.
“If anything ever happens to that cat, I am in so much trouble,” Knapic said with a laugh. entertainment coverage, all of Tim Potter’s Wichita’s crime followups, all of Taylor Eldridge’s Shockers coverage.
A digital subscription also would make a great Christmas gift for the Wichita foodie on your Christmas list. I’ll even send you a special Dining with Denise announcement card you can wrap up and put under the tree (though you’ll have to e-mail me separately at [email protected]chitaeagle.com and let me know you want one.)
Interested? Just go to Dining with Denise on Facebook. You’ll find the link to subscribe at the top of the page.
M.J. the cat is the hostess at Beautiful Day Cafe.