A few months back, one of our teachers, Curtis, introduced me to the concept of Third Places. Third places are the places where people can gather informally. This is not a house or work; Third Places are places like libraries, coffee shops, pubs, and shops. Informal public life. This concept was introduced by Ray Oldenburg in the 90s. I love this idea and see how often Third Places are missing in people's lives, especially those of young people.
We've lived in the neighborhood surrounding the shop for over 20 years, and the shop has been my Third Place for nearly 9 years. When I was in my 20s, our Third Places were restaurants and galleries like the Mercury Cafe, Watercourse, and Revo When the kids were little, we would all get together at Ford Warren Library for story time with Mr. Jim and take swim lessons at Glenarm. I also remember a time in my life when I felt like I had no Third Place. I was lonely. I felt isolated. I had to get out and find one.
Now, my oldest works out at the rec center nearly every day and sees neighbors, friends, shop families, and has a deep connection with the people who work there. My youngest hangs around the library after school and gets food at Gena Ray's. The folks ask them how they are doing and if they're keeping up with school. I know that people are watching out for my kids. I understand that the presence of these Third Places creates a social fabric in our neighborhood that will support them and help them to be better men.
When we're at the shop, neighbors and friends stop in, we catch up, talk about community and politics, and find out who might need a helping hand or a hug. Our kids and their friends grab snacks at Sun Market and stop by to check in. The kids who come here can find community and safe adults who will remember the things they built when they were 7, and now they are 15. We've celebrated seasons, births, and marriages. We've had rooftop concerts in the middle of the pandemic. We've used the space to organize and support protests against those who wish to dehumanize and separate us. We're a collection site for non-profits. Being a Third Space and part of this community is joyful. It's imperfect, we’re a business and rely on people paying for services to survive, the door can't always be open, and we can't be everything to everybody, but we're here and that’s something.