Coffehouse Hues: Downtown’s Third Places

By McKenna Bland

A classic debate exists among Holland locals regarding the best coffee shop in downtown. But for many the debate is nothing about coffee – it’s about the experience. The ambience. The aesthetic.

It’s about the space – what some might call their “Third Place”.

The “Third Place” phenomenon, popular in business design, is the idea of making a café  someone’s go-to place to do anything and everything outside of their home and workspaces. Its a design that goes beyond the coffee – encompassing taste, smell, comfort and service all in one tidy package. (Starbucks is the prime example.)

Truck driver  and Holland local David Perry calls Lemonjello’s Coffee his third place. He frequents the shop six days a week, coming in before work to grab his morning joe and dive into a good book. He appreciates the friendly staff and warm vibes of the décor.

Situated on the corner of 9th Street and College Avenue sits Lemonjello’s, a bustling common room for creatives who enjoy when work and play mingle. It’s achieved proven popularity – ranking second on Buzzfeed’s list of 24 Must-Visit Coffee Houses.


Eclectic is the best way to put it. A mixture of modern and kitschy, with the occasional garden gnome guarding a corner or weaved within the merchandise corner.

A graphic punch of black and white anchors the room – a checkerboard pattern that breeds nostalgia like an old diner or 1950’s kitchen.

The south wall is like morning OJ: tangy yellows and tangerines with windows framing the sunrise and its lingering rays. These hues are echoed throughout the place, dotting each black table with the signature Lemonjello’s star. On the opposite side of the room is a wall as dark as midnight, making work from the local art scene pop.

One wall is brick red with a built-in alcove for board games and playing cards for guests to enjoy. With its flexible table arrangement, tables can be maneuvered around like Tetris blocks, creating the ideal seating situation for any occasion.

One block over is JP’s Coffee Shop – a mainstay in the community for over 20 years. It’s created an experience memorable enough to land it on a list of top ten coffee shops in the U.S.

jps exterior

When you walk in the storefront, its bar boasts onyx granite counter tops, solidifying the high-end feel of the shop. With avocado walls and cherry wood paneling, customers may also catch a glimpse of taupe and terracotta shades.**

JP’s is also known to showcase local artist’s work. Right now, it hosts work by Wade Gugino which highlights the window pane effect on the shop’s back wall.

Daylene Miller, a receptionist at a non-profit, refers to the space as a more “corporate” option than Lemonjello’s. She says she has used the space for business meetings and wedding planning.

“It’s a very comfortable place,” Daylene Miller says. “It’s whatever you need it to be!”

The layout is versatile but structured: stationary tables line the perimeter of the room and a wall divides the space in half, likely from expansion throughout the years. There are many options for seating, more than Lemonjello’s, with booths for privacy and high-top work spaces for group work.

**Currently under construction, the interior is subject to change. Baristas say charcoal and blue hues are on the horizon. Follow the journey on Instagram!

The bottom line is third places try to bring everyone together – a community living room if you will. Everyone has their own idea of what that looks like, and not everyone can be pleased. It all comes down to the right “fit”.

Check out other local shops to find your “fit” or get inspired:

The Good Earth Cafe

Crane’s in the City

Uncommon Coffee Roasters