Third Place and The Dairy Godmother

We learned about Third Place from Liz Davis, The Dairy Godmother of Alexandria, Virginia.  Liz opened a frozen custard shop down the block from our house in the Del Ray neighborhood.

Liz makes everyone feel like a neighbor.   She chats with all her customers and next time you go in, she’ll introduce you to someone else in line.  She’ll mention that you both grew up in Milwaukee or did you know this guy is moving in next door.  She does this because she’s genuinely a friendly person, but also because she wants her custard shop to be a third place.

Third place is a phrase developed by a sociologist, Ray Oldenburg.  Your first place is home, your second place is work.  Ray calls third places “great good places,” that allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them.  Third places “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.”  Oldenburg suggests that beer gardens, main streets, pubs, cafés, coffeehouses, post offices, and other third places are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy.

Liz Davis made The Dairy Godmother a third place for us.  I haven’t mentioned yet that her frozen custard is like nothing I’ve ever had (it’s a midwestern thing).  As incredible as the custard is, her sorbets are where her culinary genius shines.  Flavors like Lemon Rosemary, and Bordeaux are fresh in my mind and I haven’t tasted them since we moved in Anaheim four years ago.

Thanks, Liz!

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2 Responses to Third Place and The Dairy Godmother

  1. Al Turek says:

    Have you ever read the book “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam? He suggests that voluntary associations like clubs, lodges, sports leagues, etc. are part of the fabric of “social capital” that holds our country together. He believes that we need to connect with each other on a social level in order to keep our democracy functioning. These “Third Places” sound like an extension of Putnam’s ideas. Just my two cents…

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