When Third Way Cafe opened in December 2017, it was envisioned as "a hub for the Hilltop." For now, the coffee shop is only open to carryout service but customers look forward to being able to congregate there again soon after restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted.
Rob Meyers and Dave Eads used to linger when they got their morning coffee at Third Way Cafe.
They’d grab a seat, chat with other regulars and plan their day of doing home-repair jobs for Meyers’ handyman business.
These days, if they linger, it’s on the sidewalk in front of the neighborhood coffee shop on the Hilltop.
Coffee now is carryout only. It’s been that way since mid-March, when the Ohio Department of Health imposed a ban on in-house patrons at dining and drinking establishments amid the coronavirus pandemic.
>> This story is being provided free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find more stories on coronavirus here. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Columbus Dispatch at subscribe.dispatch.com.
The chairs and tables that once invited customers to sit and stay a while have been put away, as have the shelves filled with books and board games, most of them hidden behind a floor-to-ceiling sheet of plastic that hangs behind the barista station.
There’s just enough room for customers to maintain proper social distancing — marked by blue tape on the floor — while they wait for their coffee.
"Life is on pause," Meyers said as he and Eads sipped their lattes outside the business at 3058 W. Broad St.
When Third Way Cafe opened in December 2017, it was envisioned as "a hub for the Hilltop," said Tim Rush, who manages the business and co-founded it with his father, John.
Social-distancing measures, he said, have been jarring for a business that seeks to promote a closer community.
"The original concept was to create a place where people would stay and have conversations," Rush said. "We still have conversations, but it’s from six feet away and it doesn’t last more than a few minutes."
>> Study: To attract more businesses, Hilltop residents need to shop, dine in the area
Michaela Creed is among those who used to spend hours at Third Way Cafe. She and her husband, Wes, operate a business out of their home in the adjacent Westgate neighborhood. Two or three days a week, she’d take her laptop and work from a table in the coffee shop.
"You know you’re going to walk in and see people you know," she said. "You’re going to have good conversations. The environment encourages that."
Somehow, she said, the interactions with others as she worked at Third Way kept her motivated and on task.
"You’d think it would be just the opposite," Creed said. "It’s been strange trying to adjust" to just working from home.
For now, the meetings that many groups scheduled at the business are on hold, as are entertainment offerings such as Songwriters in the Round, which used to happen every third Sunday of the month.
But business hasn’t fallen off dramatically, Rush said. Sales are down about 20%, a downturn that he is confident Third Way will survive.
"The Hilltop has been so supportive," he said. "We’re very lucky to be in this neighborhood. If there’s any good that has come of this, it’s seeing how good people are, how much they care."