This study explored the characteristics that encourage gathering behavior and contribute to place attachment in selected coffee shops in the context of literature suggesting social gathering places contribute to social capital. These gathering places, with the potential to enhance community in this manner, have been called third places. The study was qualitative in nature and included the research techniques of visual documentation, observation and behavioral mapping, interview, and survey. A transactional approach to this study was chosen to better understand the meaning of the person-environment relationship. Each coffee shop was observed for twenty-five hours for a total of seventy-five hours. Eighteen interviews were conducted and surveys were collected from 94 patrons to reveal patron attitudes toward the physical and social aspects of the coffee shop as well as their feelings regarding the community in which they live.

The key findings regarding the physical characteristics showed the top five design considerations included: cleanliness, appealing aroma, adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and a view to the outside. A number of themes emerged related to people, their activities, and their feelings and attitudes regarding the coffee shop. Each coffee shop was found to have a unique social climate and culture related to sense of belonging, territoriality and ownership, productivity and personal growth, opportunity for socialization, support and networking, and sense of community. Regarding feelings of community, survey findings from coffee shops patrons showed a positive correlation between length of patronage and their sense of attachment to their community.