When I was in the “dreaming phase” of opening the Alley Cat Cafe, i just wanted a place to go get some good coffee. I came from the Bay Area where you could get a good cup of coffee or a mocha at any time of the day of evening. But as I started to develope a business plan, I was hit with questions about mission statements and goals and tag lines. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what I truely wanted to create was a “Place To Gather”. A place to meet up with girl friends while our kids had baseball practice, a place to share ideas, to have an actual conversation while looking each other in the eye. A place to connect to people in my community without having to worry about whether the living room was picked up or the dishes were done.
I started investigating this topic more and stumbled upon a book by Ray Oldenburg called “The Great Good Place”. After reading it, actually devouring it, I realized my concept for a gathering place wasn’t original… it even has a name: “The Third Place”. More importantly, the desire for these places is shared by most humans, world wide.
Oldenburg identifies third places, or “great good places,” “as the public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), third places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them. Third places “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” Oldenburg suggests that beer gardens, main streets, pubs, cafés, coffeehouses, post offices, and other third places are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy. They promote social equality by leveling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.”
The Alley Cat Cafe has become a “Third Place” to many in our community. I must stress, though, that although Bob and I have provided the place and the coffee, it has been the people who have made it the gathering place that it has become. The Alley Cat is a warm, welcoming gathering place, a place to connect, and leave, even for a brief moment, the stress of the outside world. Thank you to all our Alley Cat customers and friends.
For more information on the Third Place go to: http://www.pps.org/articles/roldenburg/