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The Third Place

January 28, 2011

[Claire’s Restaurant in Hardwick, Vermont]  “provides a venue for people to come together, a place that’s not work and not home, but something in-between.  ‘The third place’ is what writer and urban socialogist Ray Oldenburg calls it, a place that’s separate from the first and second places of home and work but still connected to them.  Third places are cornerstones of community life and facilitate the sort of social engagement essential to any healthy community.  They are the places where ideas are born and debated, where groundswells arise in discussions over food and drink.”

– Ben Hewitt, The Town That Food Saved

Off the top of your head, don’t you think of Cheers bar?  Yeah, locally I also think of the Hopleaf.

But if I may stretch the definition slightly I would like to add that I also think of Logan Square Kitchen.  Conceived as a shared commercial kitchen space where start-ups can get kitchen access to launch their small food businesses, Logan Square Kitchen is so much more.  Molded I’m sure by the trials of dealing with the city to define rules and regulations surrounding her business – Chicago hasn’t had a legal framework to deal with shared kitchens – owner Zina Murray has made Logan Square Kitchen a “third place”.

What goes on at Logan Square Kitchen?  Besides cooking?  Besides giving fledgling local food businesses a place to grow?  Here are a few things I’ve witnessed in the event space: Melissa Graham of Purple Asparagus convened Growing Healthy Kids there, a workshop session of various non-profits who work separately on getting kids to eat healthier in the hopes of sharing best practices and forming partnerships; the Holiday Market was a two-day affair for small local food vendors to sell their wares just before Christmas; and recently mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle sat in a large round-table discussion with food and urban ag activists to learn what their issues are.  In other words, if you are a part of Chicago’s local food scene, Logan Square Kitchen is a “cornerstone of community life” for you – it is a third place.  And it wouldn’t have to be.  It’s main business mission would appear to be to rent kitchen space to people.  But Zina has a bigger vision than that.  Zina reaches out and embraces the community.

Now my example.  Last fall I approached Zina with the idea of doing a Pop Up Photo Studio in her space.  It was a creative, albeit untested idea and she was immediately open to it.  She was supportive every step of the way; she helped me advertise it; and she was a gracious host the day of the event.  But Logan Square Kitchen that day was not just a photo studio.  The kitchen was humming with Cindy Gapinski making Small Comfort pies (home delivery!) and Zina met with various people throughout the day, some wanting to cook there, some wanting her business acumen and some of them there to work with me.  As she put it, the place has good energy.

Reading Ben Hewitt’s book, The Town That Food Saved, has taught me to appreciate the third places that are pillars of our reforming food system.  Zina Murray and her Logan Square Kitchen are just such a place.

Now it’s your turn to be part of the “virtual third place”.

Having one Pop Up Photo Studio under my belt, it’s time to assess the idea.  It seemed brilliant because it would be a bite-sized photo shoot for small, local food businesses, chefs and farmers.  From my perspective I’d be offering them a reasonably priced, professional product and if I filled all nine time-slots, the billing, minus expenses, would work out like a “normal” shoot day for me.  Everyone I talked to loved the idea.  The Twitterverse and Facebook world loved it and helped me spread the word – thank you all for that!  It even caught the attention of a friend, Ellen Malloy, who thought it interesting enough from a business and marketing perspective that it warranted a Crain’s blog post!  I was honored.  I put up a page advertising the Pop Up Studio and it received over 500 page views!  Five.  Hundred.

But.  I had 9 slots to fill and only had 5 clients.  They were wonderful and we did beautiful work for them – see samples below.  But.  Why.  Only.  Five?

As I think about doing this again, I need to know how to improve it.   I NEED YOUR FEEDBACK


Was it too expensive?  Is a weekday a problem?  Wrong time of year?  Time slots too short?  Is photographyjust not a priority for you?  It can be different next time, but I need to know what did not appeal to you about it.

So, please click below to step into the virtual third place and offer your thoughts.  And if you hate surveys, email me and I’ll meet you at the Hopleaf!  If the local food community, of which you are a part, wants an occasional Pop Up Photo Studio, help me make it sustainable!

Very short, easy survey:  Click: Virtual Third Place Pop Up Survey!


Here are some samples from the inaugural Pop Up Photo Studio:

SenTeaMental Moods teas

“They look great! Thank you for setting up the “Pop-up Studio” for us little guys.”

Phillippa Cannon scones

“Thanks Grant, the photos look fabulous.  I was very excited to see them.  Thank you for providing the opportunity to have my bread and scones beautifully and professionally photographed at a very affordable price.  The studio was an inspired idea and very helpful to those of just getting started in the food business.”

Three Sisters Garden

Provenance Food & Wine

LocalFoodWisdom‘s HungryHungryBoys

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2011 5:00 pm

    I just started reading your blog since the Peterson Garden started up. As the still photographer for the group, I think publicity is important. Your photos are awesome!!! If doing this was not such a success on a weekday, try offering it on a Saturday. Many people seem busy with family life on Sundays.

  2. Tracey Vowell permalink
    January 28, 2011 5:11 pm

    Thanks so much Grant. We never imagined that our little group of products could look so good. What a wonderful collection of photos you produced for us. As a small producer, so many things seem just out of reach, and promotional photos were one of those things before your Pop-Up Photo Studio. We are honestly excited about the next time that someone requests a photo for an article. Logan Square Kitchen was a perfect location, and having Zina around is truly an asset. She was so very warm and welcoming that we were immediately at ease. We had a wonderful experience working with you, and very much appreciate your patience with us and skill with the camera. As we talked about there, the time of year is probably difficult for a large portion of the farmers, but everything else about the opportunity you presented for us little guys was right on the mark. The price was quite fair, the location was great, the atmosphere was comfortable and conducive to our creative project. We are thrilled with our photos, and I have already taken advantage of the opportunity to mention you and how happy we are with your work to a couple of other farmers so that they can be prepared to participate if you decide to do this again. Thank You so much for thinking up this truly inspired idea. See you at market.

  3. January 31, 2011 2:21 pm

    Grant, your opening excerpt from Ben Hewitt’s book reminds me of a quote from my friend Jay Cross, a consultant/author/learning systems expert: “Conversations are the stem cells of learning.” Logan Square Kitchen is a comforting space in which to converse, enjoy and learn about food, drink, sustainability and related subjects. It’s an incubator for business and ideas alike. I hope my upcoming screening of the film Ingredients at LSK will ignite new ideas and spontaneous discussions about our local food system.

    Thanks for your effort to organize and conduct the Pop Up Photo Studio this past week, which offered us an opportunity to support your business and Zina’s. The hungryhungry boys and I enjoyed our time at LSK; I was thrilled with the beautiful photos you captured while they nibbled on two of their favorite foods ( Eat Green Foods granola bars and Hawks Hill Elk Ranch snack sticks). I agree with Tracey that your Pop Up Photo Studio is an inspired idea. You’re making it easier for farmers, chefs and food artisans alike to visually document their craft, which is something they may have considered but seldom have time to do. I recommend that you speak with the staff at Green City Market to schedule another Pop Up session in April while the Market is still indoors at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. You’ll likely attract more participants to the next Studio if the shoot is set-up in a Museum classroom during the Market. Whaddya think?

    Keep up the great work!

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