By CHRISTINA WOOD
Of the Baker City Herald
Scott Thatcher was alone one evening at his Ace Hardware store when he heard a noise near the front door.
I thought it was Ace, playing around and I went up to investigate, Scott relates. It wasnt the cat, however; it was a cat burglar.
Scott said he was so mad he held the man until the Baker City Police arrived. The suspect is now in prison for the break-in and other crimes.
The incident landed Scott and his cat on the front page of the newspaper.
We didnt know just how popular he would become though until the break-in last year, Thatcher said of the stores cat, Ace.
Now, people stop in to the store just to see the playful young cat, who likes to ride around the store draped over customers shoulders.
Cats are popular fixtures at a number of Baker City businesses. Many are strays, adopted by store owners and staff. Some are outgoing and greet customers; others keep to themselves, selectively making friends.
Ace likes to be out in the open at the Harware Store, and one of his favorite places to nap is next to the sign the hardware store at 2201 Second St. won in January for being the Baker Chamber of Commerce 2001 Business of the Year.
He thinks he is responsible for the award, said Karen Logan, an employee at the store.
He really hates it at home for the holiday and likes coming back to the store, Scott said. He is very contented with his job.
The literary cat
Bettys Books, 1813 Main Street, is the home of Blancha, a white stray who had been living illegally in the Baker Tower.
Blancha is a temperamental feline according to owners Carolyn and Tom Kulog. Her favorite spot is laying on one of the stores heating vents in the winter. She has a number of friends among the stores customers, but will occasionally object to undue familiarity by grabbing them with tooth and claw.
She really doesnt scratch or bite, but she prefers to be left alone except when she encounters a special friend.
Another cat, Page Turner, was a resident of the Kulogs upstairs apartment and, according to Tom, much more playful.
She was playing around one day and knocked over a houseplant, Tom said. She was so scared she scooted between my legs through the open door and outside. We havent seen her since. The Kulogs hope Page found a new home and continues to live in the lap of luxury.
The musical cat
Her name is Alicia Le Fluff, according to Manny Gutierrez of Marilyns Music Plus, 1821 Main St., but most of her friends just call her Alley.
Owner Marilyn Schollenberger found the half-starved, long-haired manx cat in the alley behind the music store three years ago.
Since that day, Alley hasnt missed a meal, according to Manny.
She runs up to the front of the store to greet all the customers when they come in and she enjoys listening to piano and guitar music, mostly the oldies and old time country music when we have jam sessions here in the store, Manny said.
She doesnt like rock n roll, however, running off after the first few notes. Her favorite place is the couch in the sitting area where local musicians drop by some evenings to share music and conversation.
Another pleasure for the cat is watching and stalking dogs brought into the store on a leash by their owners. She doesnt attack, shes a peaceful, loving cat, Manny said, but she lets canine visitors know the music store is her territory.
The measure of her importance to the store is evident on the restroom door. Admission to the throne room is by permission only Alleys permission, of course.
The floral cat
Walk into The Flower Box and peruse the stuffed animals Paula Dobbel has on display, but dont be surprised if one of them moves.
Shes startled a number of customers by waking up and yawning or meowing, Paula said. Lily blends in with the toy animals and they think she is one of them until she moves.
Lily, official spokescat of The Flower Box, 1925 Main St., joined the staff of the flower shop right after Dobbel bought the shop five years ago.
Paula said the shop has a number of regular customers who drop in just to visit for a few minutes with Lily, who is a very talkative kitty. She carries on conversations with many children and distracts them while their mothers shop.
She also seems to sense the sadness of customers who come in to order flowers for funerals, Paula said. She often approaches them and takes special interest in them. She will even climb into a lap when someone sits down or is crying, as if to offer her sympathy.
She also has a habit of climbing into customers purses and shopping bags, much to the amusement of children and adults alike.
Paula considers Lily an asset to the store. Her regular visitors form a solid customer base and do business with the shop regularly. The cat has been known to nibble on a little foliage while arrangements are being made, but is otherwise careful in the shop. She really likes to nap in the plant cooler case on hot summer days.
She also likes to visit Powers Shoe Store next door. Paula said the cat found a mouse in Powers window one day and chased it around for awhile. An inexperienced hunter, Lily let the mouse get away, but likely scared it away for good.
Shes a fun cat, Paula said. She likes to harass the guide dog puppies in training who are welcome to come in here. It is good practice for them. She doesnt run from them and stares back eye-to-eye. They learn to ignore her.
The financial cat
The newest business cat in Baker City is C.D. at the Bank of America, 1790 Washington St. His name is short for certificate of deposit as he deposited himself on the front steps of the bank the day the Olympic Torch came through Baker City.
He had been hanging around for about a week and likes the refrigerator, said bank employee Judi Brooks. The young cat ate half of a salami left over from a party that first day.
C.D. is an orange manx with six toes on his front feet. While the tellers at the bank welcome his company, We would like to find out if he belongs to someone, said Jennifer Jensen. The cat appears to understand bankers hours, usually showing up at 10:30 a.m. and coming in with the days first customers through the front door.
He naps on the couch in the bay front of the historic building which serves as the branch office and stays close to the heating vents on cold days.