During 2012, this blog summarized a variety of third places in detail. These included coffee shops/cafes, brewpubs, and libraries. One third place that was mentioned but never fully explored was traditional barber shops.
Yesterday, while getting some of my remaining hairs trimmed, I was reminded of this fact and how much my own local barber shop, Zea’s Okemos Barber Shop in the Greater Lansing burbs, is a fabulous living example of a third place. In this no larger than 1,000 square foot footprint were 17 people (four barbers and 13 customers), nearly all in hearty conversation on a variety of topics and interests. Sure, the shop was more crowded than usual for a Wednesday night, as this was the pre-Spring Break rush, but whenever I am there, the welcome and congenial atmosphere always prevails. No requirement for you to be getting haircut, as a number of local residents and business owners will just stop in for a few minutes to say hello and chew the fat. And unlike Floyd’s Barber Shop depicted in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina on the Andy Griffith Show, this one does have a fair number of female clients and one female barber, as well.
Sitting there in my barber chair, I was heartened by the fact that this 50 plus year old institution is a quintessential example of a classic third place and represents all the best that my current hometown has to offer – friendliness, charm, history, and a sense of community all come to mind. It may not be flashy, fancy, or trendsetting, but at Zea’s Okemos Barber Shop one immediately feels at home with friends and one’s extended community family. As Dorothy Gale once said, “there’s no place like home.”