Bassam Helwani’s cats, Frankie and Franci, roamed around the empty building while Helwani painted in preparation for Two Cats Café's opening.
Helwani bought the space that used to be the Locker Room, but he didn’t want to replace it with it another bar; he wanted a new restaurant for those under 21 to hang out in, in the Village.
“I want to give a place where students under 21 can come and chill," Helwani said. "They can do their homework, get food or just hang out with friends.”
Helwani also owns Damask Café, a Mediterranean restaurant he started after arriving in Muncie in 2013. Damask won the Taste of Muncie in 2013 and 2015 for best entrée dish. He always wanted to move into the Village, and when the Locker Room closed, he was approached about buying the building.
“There is a new trend in today’s world about eating healthy,” Helwani said. “I thought it would be good to give the Village a different look, something new. I wanted to give food and drinks that are not always around.”
Two Cats Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Helwani uses his cats’ names — Frankie and Franci — as a cultural background for his food. Frankie likes the American style and comfort food: sandwiches, wraps, fried foods. Franci likes the elegant food: crepes and vegan foods.
“They didn’t have their names yet when I bought the place,” Helwani said. “I would bring them every day when I worked on the restaurant. I thought of the names and used them as a brand.”
The café also serves smoothies, coffee and juices — all sugar free and made with honey — and has free wifi for customers. Helwani said he hopes the business will be successful because it fills a niche for customers.
“I don’t want to compete with the other business,” Helwani said. “They are already established; I’m trying to provide a different experience for everyone.”
Helwani hopes to open his place up to artists of the Ball State and Muncie community to have events such as stand-up or a poetry night, connecting with the community and providing a different niche for the customers of Two Cats Café.
Taylor Sandahl, an education major, said she enjoys the café.
“I don’t eat gluten and a lot of their food is healthy and gluten-free," she said. "It gives everyone a nice place for a meal and won’t break your bank.”