When a stray black cat with white paws followed a couple into the Blossom and Basket Boutique in Mount Airy during Mother’s Day weekend in 2001, shop owner, Ellie Bonde, 66, of Mount Airy, was sure that he wouldn’t be there long.
Eleven years later, the cat - known as Tuxedo - has become a fixture in the store and the Mount Airy community.
“He’s the world’s best cat,” Bonde said. “He likes everybody, [and] we love him.”
Tuxedo was one of three kittens abandoned on Main Street that weekend. He was about 11 weeks old when he walked into the boutique’s former location, at 228 N. Main St., trailing a couple and their stroller.
“He followed them down the street and into the store,” Bonde said. “We think he might have slept in a carriage before. He really liked carriages when we first got him.”
No one knows where the other two kittens ended up, Bonde said. After having Tuxedo examined by a veterinarian, Bonde and her daughter and shop co-owner, Rene Bonde Shiffler, 31, of Frederick, decided to keep him, but not at Bonde’s Mount Airy home.
“We put him in the store [because] I had another cat at home at the time,” she said.
Now, Tuxedo lives full-time in the boutique’s current location at 3 N. Main St., sleeping primarily in a laundry basket of clean rags that employees use when making floral arrangements. In his time living at the store, he has broken only one item at the flower and gift shop — a teacup that cost about $12, Bonde said.
Tuxedo is not the only pet at the store. Winston, Bonde Shiffler’s dog, a mix of a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle, hangs out at the shop every day, but goes home at night.
“They have a Garfield and Odie relationship,” Bonde Shiffler said.
Tuxedo guards the shop during off hours and helps to greet and entertain customers from 10-5 p.m. six days a week, Bonde said.
“He gets a lot of love from customers,” Bonde Shiffler said. “Many people say they stop by off hours and just visit with him through the door.”
“The little kids just love him. He makes people feel instantly at home,” she said.
Tuxedo has become so popular among customers that Bonde said she didn’t hesitate to purchase several plush toys that resembled the cat while browsing through inventory catalogs about five months ago.
“I said ‘that’s our Tux [when I saw it],’” she said.
By early this month, the shop had sold about a dozen Tuxedo toys.
Tuxedo also recently got a Facebook account, where he plans to chronicle his daily “shenanigans,” Bonde Shiffler said.
As of Dec. 20, he had 10 likes on his page.
Bonde said that she has no plans to move Tuxedo out of the store.
“He’s going to be here forever,” she said.
To follow Tuxedo on Facebook go to www.facebook.com/pages/Tuxedo/313740822072109.