You probably have a third place and don’t even know it. It might even be here with us.
In his book, The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg explores the concept of one’s “third place.” Generally speaking, a person’s “first place” is the home. The “second place” is the workplace, where people actually spend most of their time. “Third places” are the anchors of community life and encourage socialization, creativity, relaxation and general decompression. A “third place” is essentially found when one feels a sense of place.
Oldenburg describes third places as having the following criteria:
- Free or inexpensive
- Food and drink are important (but not essential)
- Highly accessible
- Involve regulars
- Are welcoming and comfortable
- A place where both new friends and old friends are found
Furthermore, other scholars have summarized Oldenburg’s view of a third place with other characteristics. Third places are neutral ground – occupants have little to no obligation to be there. Third places are “levelers,” meaning social status is unimportant. This allows for a sense of commonality. In a third place, conversation is the main activity (but not required). Third places have regulars, the mood is playful there, and it is a place described as a “home away from home.”
A third place is very personal; it can be a country club, a library, a café, a chess-in-the-park club…or a winery, among many others.
Some great examples of third places:
Midcentury beauty salon. Getty images
Coffee shops. La Prima Espresso in Pittsburgh PA pictured here. Photo credit
The Restaurant at Ponte
In Pittsburgh, there is a section of downtown called The Strip District. It is a street lined with restaurants, coffee shops, ethnic markets, 100-year old cheese mongers and food stands. There is one particular café, an ancient shop where elderly men sit outside and sip espresso while bantering in Italian. I get the feeling some of these guys are from what they would call “the old country.” Every single time I’m in the area, they are there, sitting for hours, people-watching, sipping their coffees, puffing on cigars. I have no doubt whatsoever, that this tiny old street café is their third place.
Beauty parlors in the ‘50s and ‘60’s are another great example of a classic third place. Ladies would not stop by for a quick trim and run out the door. They would spend their entire morning there getting curled and dyed, but would stay for much longer catching up with friends, discussing the news and, of course, getting filled in on gossip.
The Reserve Room at Ponte Winery
Claudio had the concept of a third place in mind when the Wine Club was created over a decade ago and the idea was solidified with the debut of the Members-only Reserve Room. Essentially, as soon as a guest joins the Wine Club, Ponte Winery becomes their third place. It’s a place of congregation, socialization, food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere. While not completely accessible to all of our Members (specifically out-of-state Members), that doesn’t mean it’s not a third place whenever they visit, even if very infrequently. We hope the atmosphere makes everyone feel at home from the moment they step in the door.
In a world and society where everyone is going after first place, don’t stress yourself out. Third place may be just what you need after all.