Recently, the adolescent consumption of coffee has become very normal to many. Personally, I drink coffee at least once a day for the energy boost, this leads me to frequently use coffee shops. As a café regular, I thought that the main demographic of the local coffee shop at the beach would be students from the local college at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. During my observation of the coffee shop culture, I worked to answer the question: How do the location and recent pandemic impact the use of Sundays Café? Also, what motivates consumers to use this location?
There are many different uses for a coffee house and reasons that would lead people to return. In a 2006 study conducted by Waxman, she discovered through analysis that coffee shops act as third places which creates attachment to them. Third places are surroundings that differ from the main two social settings of home and work. Third places are particularly important during the current pandemic as people feel suffocated by their home and work settings combining into one. Through her research, Waxman found that people develop connections to cafes physically because of the comfort of the surroundings and the aroma. However, aside from physical aspects, it was found that people return to coffee shops because of the productivity, sense of community, ownership, and ability to socialize (p. 51).
Furthermore, another study conducted in 2007 by Rosenbaum, Ward, Walker, and Ostrom solidified the idea of people using the coffee shops as an outlet for a third place environment. People establish an attachment to the coffee houses through the relationships that are formed with others in the social setting and the derived sense of community (p. 53). Sundays Café largely caters to the local demographic through the incorporation of locally brewed drinks and the “beachy” interior, creating a sense of familiarity for the consumers.
Observational Data and Analysis:
During my first observation, the café was relatively quiet and almost completely filled with locals. Many people sat either typing away at their laptops or quietly sipping at their drinks. Since this diverse café offers a wide variety of drinks such as locally brewed beer and kombucha, wine, and coffee, it has generated a mix of people using the café. One man who had recently graduated from North Carolina State University that I spoke with, mentioned that because of the recent pandemic, he has struggled to find a job out of college. This led to his increase in caffeine consumption and frequency at coffee shops. This indicates to me that the mental health implications from the pandemic act as an important factor for the return of customers. Furthermore, he stated that he appreciates the diversity of drinks offered because it accommodates whatever mood he is in while also supporting local breweries.
Directly across from the man were two college girls who sat closely together on a couch while creating a balance of conversation mixed with concentration for their work. Their lack of social distancing and disregard for masks demonstrates their lack of care for impeding health risks associate with COVID-19. When speaking with them they mentioned that they liked “the chill and good vibe feel of the coffee shop” as they came here often to study, however, they never came alone. This suggests that there is a social aspect to the use of the café. Overall, the aroma of the café seemed very friendly and light, with trendy indie music playing, accompanied by the soft chatter that filled the room. The majority of the people in the café seemed to be using Sundays as a study outlet where they can come to get work done.
On my second visit to the cafe, I sat at a large picnic table in the café and got some of my own homework done. It was not hard to feel at home in this coffee shop. There are many local aspects incorporated into the design such as surfer paintings made by Wrightsville Beach locals and light turquoise paint filling the room. This seems to create a level of comfort for the customers with the interior connection to the beach. A family of three that I interviewed revealed that they have been living in Wrightsville Beach for ten years and have felt a strong sense of community while living here. Furthermore, they admitted that the stresses of having a young child and lack of social interaction during the recent pandemic has led them to drink more coffee. They said that Sundays Café makes them “feel very connected to the community” as they like to drink their alcoholic beverages and mingle with the others in the café. Overall, it seems that the recent pandemic has increased the use of the coffee shop by acting as a social escape for people to interact with others in the community.
Although I thought that Sundays Café was mainly populated with local college students, I was proved wrong and shown the demographic of the tight-knit community in Wilmington that exists in the cafe. Sundays Café has shown to have a soft spot in all the locals’ hearts with a comforting environment and a diverse selection of locally crafted drinks. This has proven that the customers value the sense of community and aroma as a major factor in returning to the café.
Also, from my personal use of coffee shops, I expected everyone to come to be productive. However, I was shown that many people use this café as a third place away from home and work to socialize and connect with the community. Specifically, during the recent pandemic, the use of the café has exponentially increased because of the entrapment felt by people as their homes and workplaces have combined. Overall, COVID-19 has increased the use of Sundays Café as it has acted as an outlet for people to interact and appease their mental health issues through caffeine consumption. In the future, my research could help better comprehend the benefits and uses of third places.
Waxman, L. (2006). The coffee shop: social and physical factors influencing place attachment. Journal of Interior Design, 31(3), 35-53. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=3ae3122b-e8be-4561-acf8-c2a786f8dd07%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=505192969&db=asu
Rosenbaum, M., Ward, J., Walker, B., Ostrom, A. (2007). A cup of coffee with a dash of love: An investigation of commercial social support and third-place attachment. Journal of Service Research, 10(1), 43-59. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/docview/210511010?pq-origsite=360link
Featured Image Source:
Google Images for free and fair reuse