3 minute read

Mandolin Books Coffee Company


Jordan Harbinger asks…


Is having a third place the key to reviving human connection? Do we really need a third place and, if so, how do we go about finding one?

6419 - 112 Ave Edmonton, Alberta T5W 0N9 780-479-4050

6419 - 112 Ave Edmonton, Alberta T5W 0N9 780-479-4050

We spend most of our lives at work or home, but what do you do when you need a third place — somewhere you feel happy and comfortable, with friends, fun, and no judgment?

With a wave of loneliness sweeping the world, so many of us are missing out on a vital space of belonging and expression.


The “third place” is a term coined by US sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book The Great Good Place. It describes a place outside your home or work where you can relax and hang out.” **

This month I had the privilege to interview Lianne Traynor, owner of Mandolin Books and Coffee; and we discussed this topic of being a “third space”.

She says that “it is an honour and privilege to provide that (third) space in the Highlands Community”.

Mandolin Books and Coffee was originally established in 2003 by Sharon Skage. Lianne bought the business six years ago after realizing she was ready to re-enter the workforce. Reentering after 12 years of being at home raising her children.

In the beginning there was more of a “bookstore” emphasis, but over the years it has evolved to a more “coffee house'' focus. The couple that owned the business after Sharon and prior to Lianne hired staff and expanded the hours of operation, opening to 7 days a week. It was at that point that Mandolin Books became a hub to connect in the community - this third space.

Lianne said “the current owners needed to sell, and Mandolin books needed to stay open and so I bought it.”

She laughs and I smile on the other end of the phone. Before I can give voice to the question she answers the one on my mind.

Nope, no previous experience in business or running coffee shops, being a barista or even a server… I just jumped into it!

I can hear the pride and smile in her voice and I love it.

Now Mandolin Books is the preferred place for the neighborhood book clubs to meet and the study space for lots of Concordia students. The “Cheers Song” lyrics play in my head… “the place where everyone knows your name, the place you feel where you belong.”

Lianne agrees. “Customers feel like family. Old friends meet unexpectedly and are able to connect. Our baristas usually know the regulars by name…” She pauses, “and if they don’t, they know them by their coffee order!.

I smile... I can tell she is proud of the culture of the shop as well as the business itself. Lianne admits that she spends most of her time supporting her staff to provide the most awesome service from her office, in the shop, rather than being out front. She loves that Mandolin Books and Coffee has remained a neighborhood hub throughout the crazy times this year with COVID and people have continued to come in for their favourite cup of coffee (even if they can’t sit or stay!)

We’re getting ready to wrap up when Lianne jumps in. “Oh! And yes, we have great coffee, provided by local coffee roasters Catfish Coffee.” I have had their coffee and I agree! “And, we love our pastries, and foodstuffs are all provided by other local small businesses.” That I seriously love and I tell her about what we are up to with the Magazine. Lianne listens intently and then tells me. “We decorate our walls with local artists, sell their art on the shelves and local artisans provide the many shoppable items that are a delight for all who stop for coffee”.

I’m about to hang up the phone when Lianne chimes in with a laugh, and I think about how many times I have smiled during this delightful interview. “And books,” she says. “We have lots and lots of wonderful books.”

I think I know where I’ll find myself grabbing my coffee when I need to settle into my own “third space” this January, and perhaps I will see you in passing there… May you stay warm Edmonton… and if you stop in, ask for Lianne and tell them “Create the Ripple Magazine sent you!”

By Candice Smiley