This study was an exploration of the physical and social characteristics that encourage gathering behavior in selected coffee shops in Tallahassee, Florida, in the context of literature suggesting social gathering places contribute to the social capital of communities. Gathering places enhancing community in this manner have been called third places. The study was qualitative in nature and included the techniques of visual documentation, observation and behavioral mapping, interview, and survey. Photographs were taken of each coffee shop, and an inventory was made of all furniture, equipment, and significant architectural features. Floor plans were drawn for the three coffee shops and detailed observations and behavioral mapping were recorded on the floor plans as well as in field notes. Each coffee shop was observed for twenty-five hours for a total of seventy-five hours. Fifteen interviews were conducted to better understand how patrons felt about the coffee shop and the meaning these places held for them. Surveys were distributed to 94 patrons to reveal patron attitudes toward the physical and social aspects of the coffee shop as well as their feelings regarding the community in which they live.
The data was coded and four categories emerged: physical characteristics, people, activities, and feelings and attitudes. The key findings regarding the physical characteristics included patronís top five design considerations in the ideal coffee shop. These characteristics, presented in order of preference included: cleanliness, appealing aroma, adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and a view to the outside.
Other themes emerged related to people, their activities, and their feelings and attitudes regarding the coffee shop. Each coffee shop was found to have itsí own unique social climate and culture related to sense of belonging, territoriality and ownership, productivity and personal growth, opportunity for socialization, support and networking, and sense of community. Regarding feelings of community, survey findings from coffee shops patrons showed a positive correlation between length of patronage and sense of attachment to their community. In addition, feeling attached to the community was positively correlated to their happiness with living in Tallahassee.