Third Street Stuff Offers Eclectic Eatery And Cafe

by Alex Cheser
Columnist

If you’re not aware of Third Street Stuff, you are pretty much out of the Transy loop. Third Street Stuff & Coffee, right off the intersection of Third and North Limestone Streets, is the closest beacon of real life outside the Bubble. The front half is a little shop full of novelty books, locally made arts and crafts, jewelry, notebooks, purses, etc. The back half houses the coffee shop and lounge areas. I’ve frequented Third Street often, but I didn’t know much about its origins. That’s why I was thrilled when the owner, Pat Gerhard, agreed to meet me for an interview.

Third Street Stuff presents customers with a unique café experience.

Fresh out of college, Gerhard had an affinity for arts and crafts and began going around the local fair circuit making a living from her creations. She sold an evolving mix of woven and sewn crafts and painted items. Needing a name, Gerhard took inspiration from her neighborhood and named her business Third Street Stuff and incorporated 26 years ago. She began using more help to sustain her expanding business and bought her first commercial space on South Limestone Street in 1989. Sales in crafts gradually narrowed due to competition with imports, but, through sales to other stores and by carrying other local crafts, Third Street continued to grow. In 1996, Gerhard moved Third Street Stuff to its current location.

Six years ago Third Street Stuff began selling coffee.

“I just knew we could expand,” Gerhard said.

Third Street brews fair-trade coffee that is roasted weekly by the Lexington Coffee and Tea Company. The coffee largely comes from South America and other locations like Papua New Guinea.

“The dark roast is my favorite. I drink it black, but if it’s early in the morning I just take shots of espresso,” Gerhard.

I also wondered about an independent coffee shop owner’s opinions of Starbucks and mass-market coffee.

“Oh, I’m fine with Starbucks. They taught the world about coffee and got us all hooked on caffeine. I just think our coffee tastes better,” she said.

I agree. In fact, Third Street has a happy hour every day from 5 to 7 p.m. where all coffee and tea is half off. I don’t see Starbucks beating that.

Then there’s the food. Apparently, food wasn’t even in the original game plan when Third Street began selling coffee. Gerhard expected some small pastries, but nothing to the scale of its current menu. The push for sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. was completely customer-driven. I’m a big fan of the ham and brie sandwich or the salmon bagel, but apparently the Hendrick, named after the revered barista, is very popular with customers. All the pastries and bagels are locally baked too and food scraps are composted. Recycling’s a huge priority as well.

Third Street is very focused on its community, too. The shop is extremely popular with Sayre School students and all the seniors put Third Street Stuff stickers on their laptops. They also pair with the Lexington Art League, the Living Arts and Sciences Center and the Carnegie Center frequently and cater or provide coffee for their events. Gerhard’s advice for Transy students?

“Just get out in the community,” she said. “Transy is built in towards itself and isn’t open to the outside community when there’s so much to do and see!”

After our interview, I ordered a latte with a shot of “punkin spice,” and, as I waited, I looked around and had a new appreciation for my surroundings. Everything from the mélange of pastels, the Christmas lights, the jar of vegan cookies, the collection of different currencies pinned to the wall and even the life size poster of Demarcus Cousins fit together in an eclectic mix that could only work at Third Street. If you’ve never been witness to it, you’re really missing out.

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