Monday, May 14, 2007

Creating a Third Place

A blog I read recently led me to an article on the SpecialtyFood.com website. It's called "Striving for Third Place," and, no, it's not an essay that is promoting mediocrity. While the article targets businesses in the food industry, the ideas it puts forth can be implemented in a variety of retail & service stores.

The article posits that the "first place" in a person's life is home, while the "second place" is work. The "third place" is that public spot where people gather and interact with such regularity that they become part of the business' very fabric.

There are several suggestions here on how entrepreneurs can help establish their businesses as a third place. These are ideas on how to generate repeat customers, but, in a larger sense, these are ways to better integrate the business as part of a larger social structure in a neighborhood.

Right after college, when I was adrift in Albany, I found myself routinely visiting Dan's Diner. Small, greasy little place that could hold maybe 25 people at the most. It would open at 2 AM most days, and close around 1:30 PM, after the lunch crowd. I was there most Saturdays, and while they never knew my name (I was always "that bearded guy" or "that guy with the blue sweater"), they always knew my order. I was part of a scene that included college guys after a night of drinking, on-duty cops on a meal break, and some of the street characters that frequented that stretch of Washington Avenue. Each was held bound by the joys of the Beat the House breakfast special, and watched over my a waitress who enforced a strict code of "no cussing," there on signs for all to see.

Good times. That was a fun place. A fun third place. Businesses should strive for that.

3 comments:

Roger Green said...

I was watching the ABC news Thursday night. Anchor Charlie Gibson was in Seattle and he interviewed someone from Starbucks. The woman mentioned the coffee shops becoming a Third Place. The tables are round, because, even when one's alone, one (apparently) does not FEEL so alone.

Of course, my favorite (fictional) Third Place is Cheers.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Net savvy folks might say that a chat room or website or game place is their Third Place. My nephew has several online friends from several different countries with whom he plays in complex game situations. He has never met (in person) or spoken with (by phone) these people, but feels as if he knows them well. Frequent visitors to chat rooms or other Net-based forums might say the same about the people with whom they interact. So my question is this - can your Third Place be a Net-based or Net-focused location, even if it is not a physical location?

Darrin Conroy said...

I don't see why not, though I'm curious to know about the social side effects of these online-based relationships. I attended an all-day seminar last Friday on the use of "Web 2.0" (not super-fond of that phrase) applications in libraries. The presenter told a story of going to Amsterdam on holiday. There, he ran into a guy (another American) who's one of his long-time Flickr buddies. They'd never met, but had interacted online with each other so much that they knew each other's faces. However, their face-to-face meeting was dominated by taking photos of each other, which were thereupon placed on each other's respective Flickr pages! It was as if that were the only means by which they could interact.