ThirdPlace WorkSpace Thursdays - OCF Cafe, Federal Street

Third places in a city or town are those that are neither home, work, nor shopping… they are the informal places in between, the public living rooms where we gather or go to be alone in a crowd… and there’s good argument that a culture of solid third places (Parisian café culture is so good as to become cliché) is a driver and indicator of community vitality. They can also be great workspaces for those of us not wanting to work from home, not yet being ready to pay for “real” commercial space, looking to get out of the office, or have a more informal meeting.  There’s etiquette (called buying things and not being a slob with your belongings) to working in a café, but doing so can be good for you and the proprietor alike.  In this blog, I’ll take you on a reviewed tour of some of Philadelphia’s ThirdPlace WorkSpace (trademark pending) opportunities.  I hope you join me.

The cool thing about OCF Café at 20th and Federal in Point Breeze is that it’s a café that is almost explicitly about more than just being a café.

OCF Realty recognizes that we urbanites often yearn for that public living room, so in neighborhoods in which they’re doing residential development, they’ve started up coffee shops that serve as amenity for existing residents and their prospective tenants.  Maybe it’s a loss leader, maybe not; either way, it looks like mighty smart business.

But just because they’re started by a sometimes-controversial developer, doesn’t mean they don’t know what it takes to do a café right.  The barista/manager is a very friendly guy (and sufficiently in character with a scruffy beard and tales of his trip to upstate NY for a Phish show) who seems to know many of his customers personally.  He also tells me he’s working on getting bike racks installed on the sidewalk, which is a big plus in my book.  The coffee is good and the pastries locally prepared.  Two-person tables line the walls/windows (tons of light) in the space, lending comfortable workspace without monopolizing it away from others. 

You really get the community feel at OCF.  As the barista, another customer (whose dog came in and got a biscuit), and I had discussion about how we all like to make our pasta sauce from scratch, a gaggle of neighborhood 8-11 year olds came in and asked for cups of ice water; he happily obliged, but declined when one of them asked for sugar in his (he certainly didn’t need anymore). As Jane Jacobs told us so many times, the butcher isn’t just a butcher; he’s another set of eyes on the street, and that’s what makes a neighborhood.

Table Space – comfortable and not intrusive to others
Wi-Fi – strong and readily accessible
Natural Light – abundant
Atmosphere – casual/neighborly
Dirty Looks? – never
Bicycle Parking – street signs around the corner; working on better ones
Coffee – $2.25/$2.75