LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – According to Robert Putnam and his book “The Great Good Place”, “third places” are the anchors of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. Home is the first place; work is the second place. As Putnam puts it, “…your third place is where you relax in public, where you encounter familiar faces and make new acquaintances. “
Downtown La Crosse has a pretty incredible “third” space nestled in the City Square Building right off of the Artists Alley. Co-owners Jeanet Hinds and Benjamin Gruse just celebrated one year of business at J’s Cafe’. Being that safe space to converse, relax, and encounter new (as well as familiar) faces is very intentional. Hinds says, “I always knew I wanted it to feel like a living room. I wanted it to feel like you were coming to a friend’s house. Engage with it that way.” Without skipping a beat, Gruse adds “Yeah, because if people were polite enough and asked… you can do pretty much anything you want here.”
J’s has that feel of a big city, locally owned, coffee shop. You can get a cup of coffee, or tea, and something to eat. They have interesting things on the menu that you don’t find everywhere like a delicious London Fogg tea and their infinitely tasty acai bowl. There is art on the walls and interesting décor around every corner. Games, books, real dishes… everything that you think you can only find in the shadow of Wrigley Field or down the street from Fiserv Forum.
However, none of that explains the feel of the place. None of that sums up the warmth of instant welcome that you feel. That is all because of J and Ben. Hinds says, “I don’t know that we are here for ourselves anymore. It’s about all the people finding a resting place in their day during the hustle and bustle.” Gruse adds, “People have definitely connected here that weren’t necessarily expecting to. There definitely have been conversations here that I don’t believe would’ve anywhere but here because of this space,” as J smiles and nods in agreement.
If you find yourself downtown in need of a good cuppa or bagel sandwich or avocado toast, walk down to Main Street, take a peek at the Artist Alley, and stop into J’s Café. I promise J will greet you with one of the warmest smiles you will see that day, Ben will whip you up something tasty and you might just make yourself new friends for life.