Story by Cassie Sistoso, Assistant News Editor
Photos by Bill Lickman, Photographer
Tucked away in the patchwork hem of historic houses of the downtown sits Crying Cat Books and Records, a converted house to book and record shop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Though out of reach of both the center of downtown and the main roads leading to a nearby college campus, any onlooker will find an eclectic collection of locals that frequent the shelves inside.
Whether it be neighbors wandering in after the weekly farmer’s market nearby, burnt-out college students making their weekly pilgrimage on the day of a new record shipment, or even a few stray cats meandering inside to bask sleepily in the sunny front window, all are welcome in owner Terri Delong’s three-bedroom sanctuary of words.
“This has always been a dream, you know,” says Delong, gesturing at the room around her, plentifully decorated with plants and candles peeking out of bookshelves. “I’ve lived here for 20 years and always thought Murfreesboro needed a place like this, and after waiting for years and years, I thought, well, I guess I’ll be the one to start it.”
Opened months ago in the summer of 2021, Crying Cat is thriving off of local interest and community embrace. With weekly tarot card readings, local art adorning the walls, and acoustic-set musical gigs, Crying Cat is a mosaic home space for every dreamer in the area, including Delong herself.
This dream began in the basement of Delong’s house as she collected books and put them in boxes over seven years, with the hope that someday they could be proudly displayed in-store and later in the hands of readers who could home the words that she so preciously curated.
“At first it was me accidentally buying a second copy of one of my favorite books at a thrift store,” Delong begins. “Then it was a third copy, or a gift that I hadn’t let go of. I started storing them in the basement and over the next seven years it turned into Crying Cat.”
Named after the many cats in Delong’s own home, Crying Cat is visited by local strays and is also soon to be home to its very own official crying cat in the next few weeks. This new addition will no doubt only add to the bookstore’s cozy homeliness, which is a main draw for many loyal customers.
“I want people to be at home here. I love when someone comes in and plops down on the couch to read for a while, I love that kind of thing,” Delong smiles.
This warm welcome is exactly what drives the repetition of customers at Crying Cat. She is undoubtedly familiar with all the customers that come in, as a direct result of being the owner and only employee to run the store. Many customers know her by name and come in to give updates on their own lives and share personal connections to the words or music that Delong may recommend.
Most of Crying Cat’s demographic is heavily reliant on the college campus that lies less than five minutes away, teeming with young adults in their early twenties, seeking a semblance of comfort on homesick afternoons, or a place to rest their minds from textbooks and open them to fiction instead.
Crying Cat’s unique tenderness and artful openness, evident through Delong’s interest in each customer and excitement for new ways to share community projects within the space, is exactly what Murfreesboro needed. Thanks to the owner’s remarkable commitment to the heart of this project, Crying Cat continues to grow.
“Most of the money I make I pour right back into the business. Once I pay bills and feed my cats and everything, I let the profit flow right back into ordering more records or books. It’s a very unpredictable business that varies every week, but I want it to grow even more and have more gigs and projects,” explains Delong.
A key factor in community togetherness lies in the dedication Delong displays so intently — a space that welcomes in without judgment, encouraging strangers to come in, sit down, and even open up a book. Crying Cat has become more than an irreplaceable staple to Murfreesboro, Tennessee; it has undoubtedly become a place to call home.