Every time I walk into a coffee shop, I am struck by the buzzing atmosphere of people socializing, reading, knitting, and most of all, as far as I can tell, working— dozens of people engrossed in their computers or studying books or paperwork. If I am not similarly engaged I might amuse myself by wondering what each person is doing or making up a story about their work. Is the writer in the nerd glasses on his way to becoming a famous novelist for whom a table, chair, or the entire business will be named in a decade? Is the dad with the baby who’s there again soaking up some scarce “me time” or is he checking his stock portfolio over a latte as his infant daughter sleeps on his shoulder? Or are these people part of a growing network of self-employed freelancer-entrepreneurs like me?
It appears the landscape of the so called “third places” — not your home, not your office — has changed a lot. More and more coffee shops that are NOT Starbucks have been popping up in our neighborhood. Stylish but cozy locations with pour over coffee run by small business owners are not as hard to find any more as they used to be. And they attract a wide range of people. According to a 2014 research by the Freelancer Union and Elance-oDesk, more than 53 million Americans work as freelancers which is 34% of the total population. I find myself being one of them now, working many days out of my favorite third place, Swing’s.
Swing’s Coffee is located in the Del Rey neighborhood in Alexandria in an old brick warehouse, and it’s not only a coffee shop but also a roasting facility as you can tell from two blocks away by the delicious smell in the air. While enjoying any drink of the big variety offered and always customized for your taste (decaf, half caf, skim, soy, whole milk, latte, cappuccino, Americano, iced, extra hot), you can watch the coffee roasting happening behind a big glass wall. While the Del Rey location has been around for only a few years, Swing’s coffee has been part of the DC coffee culture since the early 20th century when M.E Swing Co opened the first roastery on E Street and several decades later the famous Coffeehouse on G Street. Coffee lovers have been enjoying the still best selling Swing blend Mesco for almost a century (since 1918)!
The Silverbee team always enjoys the great service and excellent coffee, but we also think Swing’s deserves our support for other reasons. The company is committed to a sustainable, traceable and transparent supply chain management. They work with importers, exporters and farms that run their business based on family-farmed small holder coffee and sustainable growing practice, and support local communities. Furthermore, Swing’s brings its sustainability practices to a local level by composting their brewed coffee. Common Ground City Farm in DC, for instance, that aims to support low-income community members uses the coffee compost for their vegetable gardens.
Now, considering the amount of freelancers it’s not surprising to me any more that so many people are using places likes Swing’s as their third place. You enjoy a spacious office where you get the chance to socialize or even network, or you can just sit among people while working on your computer and sipping a good quality coffee (not to mention those tasty pastries they offer as well).
On top of that, coffee houses are getting the recognition they deserve when it comes to culture and history, everywhere from Colonial Williamsburg to a new book by Steven Johnson. Coffee houses have long been an environment that stimulates creativity and innovation. In NPR’s TED Radio Hour episode “What is Original?” Johnson talks about the role of coffee houses during the Enlightenment in Europe when coffee started replacing alcohol (water was to dangerous to drink) and the fact that the switch from consuming a depressant to a stimulant contributed to the innovations of the intellectual movement. You can read more about his interesting theory in his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. Thus, we have another reason to be working out of third places when looking for an inspirational office.
So if you are looking for a third place because you are getting cabin fever while working from home, or need a change from staring at your grey, windowless office walls, or you just want treat yourself to a special cup of coffee, Swing’s is the place to be! And don’t forget to try the summer special!