There were many times last year when CJ Robert, her family and her staff doubted whether Robert’s business, Pups and Cups Cafe, would reopen again in Pullman.

Robert said they began searching for a new, bigger location for their dog-friendly coffee shop in the latter half of 2019.

Since then, she said, they struggled to get permits amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to work extensively to make sure the coffee shop met health codes. Because they did the remodeling themselves, that meant countless trips to Pullman building Supply and watching numerous YouTube tutorial videos on building walls, tiling floors and other skills they needed to acquire.

Finally, on Jan. 11, Pups and Cups Cafe opened at 250 E Main Street.

“It’s been crazy,” Robert said. “The community outpouring from everybody has been absolutely astounding and we couldn’t have really asked for anything more.”

The 3,200-square foot business offers a dining area, a 1,000 square-foot off-leash play area for dogs and a menu filled with locally sourced items. Plus, there’s Nala, the owner’s friendly Newfoundland who is ready to greet customers as they come in.

Pups and Cups Cafe started under the name Naughty Dog Cafe in 2017 at 317 E Main Street. Robert said she was inspired to start a dog cafe when she worked as a dog trainer in western Washington. She said most businesses do not allow pets inside their establishment, which can make it difficult to train dogs, including service dogs, how to behave in public.

And as someone who loves pets, she always liked the idea of having coffee with her friends with a dog by her side.

“Pets have always been hugely important and impactful in my life,” she said.

Robert said Pups and Cups Cafe needed to move out of its former location across the street because there was not enough space for customers in the 800-square-foot coffee shop.

“I was turning away probably 60-80 people every single weekend,” she said.

The building across the street gave them the space they needed. and she was happy to stay on Main Street.

“What better place is there?” she said.

Robert hopes other businesses will “put community first” and locate downtown to help the city’s central business district thrive.

“We wanted to inspire others to do the same and not just look at a dead downtown for 10, 15 years,” she said.

She said Pups and Cups Cafe is also trying to put other local businesses first by filling its menu with local and regional products.

For example, it offers salsa from Taqueria Chaparrito in Pullman, pastries from Jacob’s Bakery in Uniontown, coffee from Tom Sawyer Country Coffee in Spokane and honey from Lewiston.

She said local businesses need support more than ever and it is Pups and Cups Cafe’s goal to help provide that support.

“It’s not just about us,” she said. “It’s about everyone else.”

Pups and Cups Cafe is open from Tuesday to Saturday. Rules regarding bringing pets can be found on its website pupsncups.net.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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