SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — For people who live in the South Portland area, Shoppers True Value Hardware is a staple.
The family-owned store has been around since 1955 and is still in its original family. Now, there's a newer employee who's stealing the hearts of people in the community.
Daniel spends most of his time at the register and the paint counter. He shows up to work polished, in a custom-made bowtie. The catch is: Daniel isn't a human. He's a cat.
"When I met him, I asked if he wanted to go home with me, and he smashed his face into mine. I knew he was a keeper," Jessica Simpson, co-owner of the store, said.
From the beginning, Jessica, her son, and her friend Lauren Springer (who is a manager at the store) were all interested in getting a shop cat. Her father, Tom Simpson, wasn't quite there, though. He went on vacation in February, which is when Jessica went to Midcoast Humane in Edgecomb and adopted Daniel.
She said it was probably the first time she had disrespected her father's wishes, but it was worth it. She said Daniel's presence has helped them deal with some family hardships.
"[Daniel] has brought a sparkle back to my Dad, which is really the best part of it after losing my brother three years ago," Jessica said, noting Daniel reminds her of her brother in some ways.
"It’s really funny," Jessica said. "My brother Michael was always right at this paint counter, and that’s where [Daniel] spends a lot of his days."
Tom said he spends every morning with Daniel, coming in before everyone else to drink his coffee with the cat. Even holidays like Thanksgiving don't stop him from doing so.
"We were closed that day, but I didn’t want [Daniel] to feel rejected, so I came down on Thanksgiving to have coffee with him," Tom said.
It's a moment of quiet he gets before the doors open and Daniel's admirers begin arriving.
"Daniel has a big following," Tom said. "There are a lot of people who come in just to see him. A lot of people ask where he is when they come in."
One of those people is Chris Washburn's young daughter, who doesn't seem to be able to keep her hands off Daniel.
"If I need her to run some errands with me I just say, 'Would you like to go see Daniel the cat?' She runs for the door," Washburn said.
Lauren jokingly calls herself Daniel's "manager." She started posting videos of him on the store's TikTok page. He has more than 30,000 followers and nearly two-million likes on videos.
"I do think when you have a cat that wears a bowtie and works at a hardware store and is this docile, it was really pretty easy," Lauren said about gaining that much attention online.
She said the reaction is almost always positive. Now, the store has merchandise, like stickers and t-shirts, with Daniel's face on them.
"I think it kind of brightens everybody's day a little bit," Lauren said.
You can watch Daniel's videos here.