VOICES: Coffee shops create space for community and collaboration

In 2015 I had the privilege to open a space called Third Perk Coffeehouse & Wine Bar. This was before understanding the concept of a ‘third place.’ As I took the journey to put this safe space together for a community that was lacking the very amenity that I journeyed to create, I took time to design what I desired for myself: a space where I felt safe and appreciated; a place where I could unwind between work and home; a space where many would gather to create and build.

Now I will not deny that many came into this space to conduct work, but for most it was a mecca of peace. It offered the ability to unplug from the day. It gave a soulful sound of music, and it was dripping with local art including paintings, fabric mosaic crafts and photographs. Third Perk Coffeehouse cultivated an inviting and inclusive environment where customers felt comfortable and valued.

The warm and stylish interior design, comfortable seating, and friendly staff contributed to a cozy and welcoming atmosphere that encouraged people to linger and socialize. By providing high-quality coffee, teas, pastries, and light meals, Third Perk ensured that customers were satisfied and eager to return.

Third Perk engaged with the Dayton community by hosting a variety of events and activities that catered to diverse interests. Those events included open mic nights that encouraged local artists and musicians to showcase their talents as well workshops and classes on topics such as entrepreneurship, mental health, and personal development.

Coffee shops provide a space for local groups and organizations to meet and collaborate. Local entrepreneurs were constantly supported by featuring products from local artisans and vendors. Third Perk fostered a sense of community and mutual support among Dayton’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

My favorite third place has now been closed for nearly six months. I suddenly have been faced with just how important that lil’ coffeehouse existence was to my community. I began to count the many discussions had; the concepts birthed; and the partnerships formed within the wall of that coffeehouse.

For those who only sought Third Perk out for coffee — you missed out. It was more than coffee. It was, simply put, a community hub. It was a place that you could catch Dayton leaders, the cool kids, and many more under one roof.

The notion of a coffeehouse embodies so much more than what might be served. It is the smile of the barista who knows your order. It is the stare of a stranger across the room that later becomes a friend. It is the world that you view out the window from inside as you sip your java. If you’re lucky, it feels like home.

I will be forever grateful for the wealth that I gained by owning a community coffeehouse. Through various efforts, Third Perk Coffeehouse successfully became a beloved third place in Dayton and will always be remembered as The People’s Coffeehouse.

Juanita-Michelle Darden is your favorite perky barista.

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