Date of Award
Master of Science
Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Sara B. Marcketti
The Younkers Tea Room was an iconic tea room located in the downtown Younkers Building in Des Moines, Iowa that was open from 1913 until 2005. It was a tradition for many people to center their trip to the Younkers Department Store, also located in the Younkers Building, on their visit to the tea room. To further understand why the Younkers Tea Room experienced the immense success over the years it was open, and also how the Younkers Tea Room can be an example for other small and large businesses, 14 individuals were interviewed about their tea room memories and experiences. Each interview was analyzed for common themes, some of these themes included: the tea room was a special place, and individuals dressed up to dine at the tea room. Many interviewees revealed they do not care to dress up simply to go out for a meal, and their tastes have evolved from the often rich food that the tea room offered. These revelations are possible underlying reasoning as to why the Younkers Tea Room closed in 2005.
The concept of Oldenburg's (1999) third places was incorporated into the study to explain possible reasons for the Younkers Tea Room's success and its eventual closing. Third places are "...a generic designation for a great variety of public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work" ( p. 15). Examples of third places are coffee shops and pubs. There are eight characteristics of third places: on neutral ground; the third place is a leveler; conversation is the main activity; accessibility and accommodation; the regulars; a low profile; the mood is playful; and a home away from home. The eight characteristic of third places were examined with the memories and experiences of the interviewees, and seven out of the eight characteristics aligned with the interviewee data. The characteristic of a third place being low profile did not align with the atmosphere and décor of the Younkers Tea Room. Third places that are low profile are plain and not fancy--the opposite of the tea room with its fancy table settings and grand décor of chandeliers and gorgeous floral carpeting. The Younkers Tea Room is an excellent example for business owners of how to replicate the characteristic of third places into their own businesses. Although, one will want to strongly consider whether or not to utilize the characteristic of being low profile, as the Younkers Tea Room did not align with this characteristic.
Emily Elizabeth Cokeley
Cokeley, Emily Elizabeth, "The Younkers Tea Room: A case study for businesses to exemplify characteristics of a third place" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 14313.