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Polly Creech, the owner of Hyacinth Bean Florist, poses with one of her foster cats.

Hyacinth Bean Florist is an ‘eden’ for foster kittens

Entering Hyacinth Bean Florist for the first time is truly a unique experience. Filled with whimsical trinkets, arrays of mismatched plant pots and holders and flowers of infinite hues and shapes, the florist shop is easy to fall in love with. The overall experience is improved even more when a kitten is spotted running around the store.

Polly Creech started her business in 2000 by growing flowers on a farm. Originally selling to other florists and at the Athens Farmers Market, Creech eventually opened the shop, located at 540 W. Union St., in 2006 after getting many wedding floral requests. Currently, Creech covers around 30 to 40 weddings a year.

An Athens resident since 1987, her focus was originally in the healthcare field, but she decided to change her career path completely after her 50th birthday.

“(I) worked in the healthcare field for many years, and when I turned 50 I decided it was time for a change, and I started the farm,” Creech said. 

Not only is the shop home to a wide variety of flowers, it is also home to a wide variety of felines. Creech began fostering kittens in the shop about 15 years ago and has had about 260 cats adopted out of the shop. Creech said fostering the kittens came about accidentally. 

“It kind of started as a fluke (because) a woman that worked next door at the time had a litter of kittens and she needed to find homes for them,” said Creech. “So I just said, ‘Well bring him to the store.’”

Shortly after this encounter, Creech became involved with the Athens County Humane Society, or ACHS. ACHS began ensuring the health, routing and treatment of the cats before arriving at Hyacinth Bean in order for them to be ready to be adopted into a loving home. Those who foster through ACHS are volunteers and the organization supplies medical care and food.

Right now, the shop is fostering three kittens named Chippy, Poppy and Lily. Along with the three foster cats, Hyacinth Bean is also home to the shop cat Jenny Jo, who, according to Creech, serves as a mother figure for the foster kittens. 

“Jenny Jo showed up outside our door in the middle of the winter,” Creech said. “She was very feral, it took us months to tame her. She nurtures the kittens a lot. She'll be licking (the kittens) and cleaning them, so she kind of serves as a surrogate mom.”

Although potential new customers may find the scurrying kittens surprising once they enter the shop, the felines have become increasingly popular around Athens.

“The cats developed fan clubs,” Creech said. “There are people who will come in almost every day (during) their lunch hour to just have a few minutes of cat therapy. They'll sit on the couch and they'll hold a cat and pet it.”

The positive feedback from the community leads to more cats being adopted from the shop, helping to decrease the number of abandoned and homeless cats circulating ACHS. When someone is interested in adopting a cat or kitten, Creech gives an application that is later turned in to the Humane Society. ACHS contacts potential adopters to make sure the cat will be placed in a safe and stable home.

Creech’s service to the community is part of a larger effort to relocate numerous homeless cats in the Athens area. With many pets adopted during the pandemic being abandoned and returned, the number of homeless cats has dramatically increased and the search for safe and lasting homes is imperative. 

For those interested in being involved with volunteering, fostering, or adopting through ACHS, the organization offers resources and ways to get involved in many different ways.

Creech emphasized the importance of evaluating the stability of a future cat home. 

“A cat has a long-term commitment,” Creech said. “Sometimes they live 20 years and when you adopt one you need to think about the next 20 years of your life and how you will be able to accommodate that cat into your lifestyle.”


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