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Get Into The Groove on Record Store Day - Photo by Marvin Shaouni
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Small businesses as third places experience growth


Owner Lori Slager at The Sparrows in Grand Rapids
Owner Lori Slager at The Sparrows in Grand Rapids - Adam Bird
How many places do you have? If you're not sure, here's a recommendation: three. Home and work are traditionally considered a person's first and second places, but the third has always been more optional. It may be a coffee shop, a tea house, a bar or even a public open space, but whatever it is, it isn't a required place providing shelter or income, but instead satisfies the human need to connect with others.

The term "third place" may have been recently popularized by Ray Oldenburg's 1999 book, The Great Good Placebut the concept has been around for much, much longer. English Pubs have been playing the role of public living room in Great Britain for centuries. Likewise, cafés and small restaurants have long acted as meeting places in cities all around the globe.

Not every bar, restaurant or coffee house truly functions as a third place, but the ones that do, do so for a reason. Like their homes and workplaces, people are loyal to their hangouts. This adds up to a recipe for success for small business, and all around Michigan, entrepreneurs are finding that out firsthand. In this series, we'll examine how these small businesses are channeling the power of being a third space into success for themselves and their neighborhoods.

In Detroit, the Woodbridge Pub created its neighborhood's first bar/restaurant in a rehabbed general store and has become so central to the area that community gardens are now a part of the business. With a blend of longtime neighborhood regulars and innovative new entertainment acts, Lansing's Green Door Bar & Grill has not only weathered an economic downturn that closed some of its neighbors' doors, but kept growing throughout. And in Grand Rapids, a group of recent graduates built The Sparrows coffee shop to emulate the atmosphere of the cafés in early 20th century Russia, and ended up setting the stage for an entire neighborhood revitalization.

Savvy small businesses know finding a way to become indispensible to patrons is the key to sustainability. Psychology Today says third places "contribute to the life worth living. They root us; they give us an identity; they restore us; they support us."

And that's about as indispensible as any café, bar or other small business could ever hope to be.

Small Businesses As Third Places Experience Growth
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