Wander into any Brooklyn deli or convenient store, and you may just make a new furry friend. Known affectionately as “bodega cats,” many felines live in the small shops, and can often be found lounging on groceries or scuttling across the shelves. Most Brooklyn residents are fond of the shop cats, and some—like illustrator Sunny Eckerle—even celebrate them.
Though Eckerle was born and raised in Colorado, she now lives and works in Brooklyn. When she first moved to the borough, she was pleasantly surprised by the bodega cat phenomenon. “I was fascinated, confused, and excited by the cats who lived in corner stores and delis,” she says on her website. “I didn’t understand why a cat would be roaming the aisles of a store – not that I didn’t enjoy befriending them (or trying to).” A cat lover, Eckerle began visiting unfamiliar businesses purely to scope out any possible four-legged tenants. Immediately enthralled with what seemed like such a “classic New York thing,” she decided to document each new cat acquaintance through unique illustrations.
In each bodega cat depiction, Eckerle showcases a single cat and the shop it inhabits. Every illustration features a cat proudly (or sleepily) situated before the façade of its bodega home-base. The cat’s name and the shop’s address are always included, and sometimes a brief description gleaned from a chat with the owner (“What’s his name? How old is he? Where did you get him?”) is provided, too.
While the borough’s beloved bodega cats have been a Brooklyn staple for years, they’ve recently become the talk of the town due to a particularly poorly-received Yelp review. In the one-star assessment, a user posted a picture of Star—SK Deli Market’s resident feline—and criticized the shop for keeping a cat near its groceries. Brooklyn-based social media users were quick to defend the condemned cat, and Eckerle even featured Star in one of her delightful illustrations. Charmingly captured through a simple and colorful drawing, Star—like all of Eckerle’s feline subjects—has found a new claim to fame through the purr-fect project.
All images via Brooklyn Bodega Cats.