By Michael Fewson
A visitor to Essence – fast becoming a regular, which is what happens when we are discovered – said, “your coffee is amazing. As I shared my discovery of your coffee house with friends and colleagues, actually anyone who would listen J, he learned many of them had also discovered us and informed him that the food was also great. But now, he said, I see this is also a great welcoming space with so many regulars engaged in community”.
The other day Lesley and I noticed a man who had become a regular at Essence. We stopped and said hi, and wifey said how she enjoyed hearing him read a story to his daughter over the phone. With tears in his eyes he thanked us because “this place has been a place of healing for me.” Trying to explain he said it was our presence as we shared with and acknowledged Essence customers, the many voices filling the space, and, well, the spirit or vibe of our coffee house.
“We were new to the area and for months never really felt we belonged,” explain the mom sitting with her family. “My hubby had his work but the rest of the family, well, we were just here. But since we’ve been coming to your cafe, I told my husband, we now feel like we belong – part of this community”.
Yes, we are very serious about coffee, as anyone who has been around me longer than 5 minutes will tell you. And you will probably imbibe some of that if you enjoy a good brew. Great, fresh flavorsome food is what we strive to serve, but all of this is the window to our soul.
Wifey and I are people persons. Whether its Lesley telling stories of her journey from Northern Ireland as a child onboard a ship heading for Australia, to meeting me – the most wonderful person in the whole world (shameless self-promotion) – and being dragged into my ‘missionary’ lifestyle, or my stories of a nomadic childhood or escapades in Australia or south east Asia or east Africa; our DNA is imprinted on Essence.
Carefully creating a hospitality-minded team who share our appreciation of those who visit Essence, adds a special ‘quotient’ to the café and the ‘pièce de résistance’, the characters who frequent our coffee house, adding their own unique stamp to create the ‘Third Place’.
What is The Third Place? You can’t create it with trendy furniture, or foodie food or buy-one-get-one-free cards. It is a dynamic that evolves as a combination of the people that inhabit the space. From “the lovely older couple that share their stories” (as we’ve been described, but would prefer the 'older' left out), the hospitality quotient of the team, to the regulars who have adopted that space. Its an undefinable personality produced by community.
Essence is a space chosen by the regulars to be; their dining room table when they are not at home; the work desk when not at work; the place of refuge or healing or momentary escape from a hectic world; a place to meet others and share life.
A Third Place is a personal space that is both private – where one can sit and unobtrusively work or study or just play games on one’s computer – or a place of meeting others, sharing stories and feeling welcome and kind of family-ish.
You could possibly seek the wisdom of the “all-knowing-google” (insert big mystical voice here) to find a place to get a good coffee but the personality of Essence is not digital, it is not a series of thumb-ups on a computer screen – it is living, vibrant, even dynamic, not trying to offer a drive-through coffee or a fast-food service, but an embracing Third Place to come and restore the soul.
We also have seriously good coffee and awesome food by the way!