Steve MacDouell describes the three things he’s learned about people from the “third place” that is his local coffee shop: they want to linger in places where they can be seen, heard, and known; long for places where contextual ideas—for the common good of the neighbourhood—can be inspired; and are attached to the places that they experience with all of their senses.
Third places—that is, places where people can enjoy the company of others outside of their workplaces and homes—are critical to the well-being of our neighbourhoods. From public parks and libraries to pubs and playgrounds, these places are impacting our localities in both subtle and significant ways. For our communities to thrive, we need third places where ideas can be shared, where everyone is welcome to belong, and where relationships, over time, can be fostered.
Me, I’d simply settle for a single coffee shop that had soft, comfortable seating instead of hard tables and chairs; thermostats not set to “blast furnace”; lighting not set to “supermarket”, and music levels set to “relaxing hangout” rather than “vibrant bar-scene”.
This seems an increasingly difficult ask, and I wish someone would write about the hows and whys of coffee shops moving out of the quiet-place-just-to-be business and into the bustling-den-of-productivity business. Just in my neighborhood alone I can think of four places to get a latte and not one of them fully fits the bill.