If you love a certain bow-wearing cat* that smacks of nostalgia and all things cute, you’ve got a rare chance to experience a sweet treat this weekend.
The traveling Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is making a stop at the Triangle Town Center this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m to sell Hello Kitty-branded food and merchandise.
“We just like to bring the Hello Kitty experience to your town,“ said Allan Tea, a co-owner of the truck. “And I think the truck does a good job of doing that, especially because it’s such a social, interactive experience.”
The Hello Kitty truck, which honors the fictional character, has been a hit for fans since it launched in southern California in 2014. Now the company has expanded with two trucks that travel the country, hitting about 40 spots per year.
Some of the “exclusive goodies and limited-edition collectibles” people can buy in Raleigh on Saturday include a lunchbox, plush toy, new mini-cakes and a giant cookie.
Other items include thermal bottles, keychains, bottled water, headbands, T-shirts and a macaron box set, according to a news release.
The macarons are a draw for long-time Hello Kitty fan Pagan Chavez, who lives in Smithfield and plans to take the day off work to visit the truck this weekend.
“I used to love Hello Kitty when I was younger, but feel like the more I get older the more I like her,” Chavez said. “I’m into everything that is cute, cuddly. I love cats. All of that just draws me.”
Chavez said she remembers buying McDonald’s Happy Meals so she could get her hands on the Hello Kitty toys that were inside. She still has a small collection of Hello Kitty memorabilia.
Selena Noble, who lives in downtown Raleigh, also has a number of keepsakes and plans to visit the truck cafe. She grew up in Georgia and remembers her father taking her to the mall to visit a Sanrio store, the Japanese company that created Hello Kitty.
“It’s just that experience of going to that special store and picking out something special,” Noble said. “It was always something to do with my dad on the weekends.”
There used to be a small store called Sanrio Surprises at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, but it closed. The closest Sanrio store is at least 150 miles from Raleigh, according to a store locator.
Created in 1974, Hello Kitty has spent decades capturing the hearts of people across the world and helping to define the Kawaii culture. Kawaii usually means “cute” or “adorable” in Japanese and represents a “culture of cuteness,” seen in Japanese pop culture.
Sanrio announced this month it will start offering Hello Kitty wines, which will be available in North Carolina. And Hello Kitty’s face has been plastered on all sorts of things, from clothing and food to airplanes, buildings and appliances.
But Hello Kitty is just one of dozens of characters by Sanrio. The mascot-producing company has unveiled less traditionally cute creatures, including Kirimichan, a fillet of salmon with arms and legs, and a self-proclaimed “lazy” egg yolk called Gudetama.
There’s also Aggretsuko, an angry red panda who copes with her dead-end job by drinking beer and singing death metal karaoke. She appeared in a Netflix series this year with a second season expected in 2019.
Meanwhile, Tea said “the super cute, super adorable truck” is a great place for Hello Kitty fans to take photos and meet like-minded people. He said fans should show up early, as items tend to sell out by the end of the day.
“It’s a great event to put Hello Kitty fans together and experience Hello Kitty in a fun and unique new way,” he said.
*Hello Kitty isn’t a cat.
The world learned in 2014, thanks to a Los Angeles Times article, that Hello Kitty is not in fact a kitty. She’s an 8-year old girl.
“Hello Kitty is not a cat,” Christine Yano, an anthropologist who studied Hello Kitty’s cultural impact, told the LA Times. “She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature.”
Hello Kitty lives in the suburbs of London and has a “heart of gold,” according to her official biography. She’s also got a twin sister named Mimmy, who wears a yellow bow.
Want to go?
What: Hello Kitty Cafe Truck
Where: Triangle Town Center, 5959 Triangle Town Center, Raleigh (near the food court and Creekside Cafes)
When: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25